At U.N. Convention, Groups Push for Geoengineering Moratorium

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Amid calls for more research, a United Nations convention on biodiversity considers a proposal to ban geoengineering solutions to global warming.

Delegates from 193 nations are meeting in Nagoya, Japan, this week. On their agenda is a proposal for a moratorium on field experiments in potential geoengineering solutions for global warming.

It is a continuation of a controversial debate among the group, usually focused on discussions of ensuring the survival of endangered species and the loss of key habitats. They are parties to the U.N. Convention on Biodiversity.

A draft agenda for the meeting, dated Oct. 1, includes a proposal that “no climate-related geoengineering activities take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks.”

It’s not clear that the broadly worded prohibition will meet with approval from delegates, but it isn’t the first time the Convention on Biodiversity waded into the emerging field.

Two years ago in Bonn, Germany, nations that participate in the convention backed a ban on one geoengineering technique — seeding the ocean with tiny particles of iron to encourage the growth of algae that consume carbon dioxide.

Environmental groups were able to use the ban to persuade the German government to temporarily halt one large-scale field test of ocean iron fertilization — known as LOHAFEX — in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica.

The Canada-based ETC Group is among those pushing for the new ban over concerns that field tests or implementation of geoengineered climate fixes will disproportionately harm developing nations and dilute support for an international effort to cut the world’s greenhouse gas output, said program manager Diana Bronson.

A Plan B for the planet?

“In 2008, this really was seen by everybody as a nutcase sci-fi thing and now, regrettably, people are starting to take it a lot more seriously,” she said.

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