Scenario 2: Good Enough Governance for Climate Engineering Proposals
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It is 2035. After 15 years of research, there is widespread – but far from total – scientific agreement that a well-designed program of solar geoengineering could reduce short-term climate impacts roughly uniformly worldwide (so regions now bearing the worst impacts would gain the most near-term benefits), and would have moderate direct environmental impacts – i.e., substantially less severe than the climate impacts already occurring.
International climate negotiations have achieved mediocre success. Industrialized country emissions have dropped 25 percent from their peak. Global emissions have not yet peaked, but their growth has greatly slowed and the peak is expected within 5 to 10 years.
These efforts are widely recognized as inadequate and negotiations for steeper cuts are ongoing, still marked by familiar arguments over distribution of effort and responsibility. It is also recognized that stronger mitigation will have little effect on the impacts now occurring, but is essential to limit even more severe future risks.
Global temperature is 1.7 C above pre-industrial, rising by 0.3 C per decade. Climate-change impacts are increasingly severe worldwide, but quite unequally distributed, most severe in tropical and semi-tropical latitudes.
With international consent, several nations have begun large programs of atmospheric CO2 removal. Now removing about 500 MtCO2e per year, these are expected to grow but are still at much smaller scale than emissions (now about 48 GtCO2e/year).
A group of middle and low-income nations has stated they wish to develop solar geoengineering deployment capacity to reduce the severe impacts they are suffering. It is not clear that they are all determined to proceed, but one – a large middle-income nation and major regional power – has stated that in the absence of an effective international process to authorize and control climate engineering, they would “seriously consider” deploying unilaterally.
As a good-faith gesture, the group has committed to wait three years before any of them would proceed with deployment, in hope of supporting negotiations to establish an international governance process to deal with their proposal, and with potential future deployment proposals.
Your Group’s Task:
You are a task group convened by the UN Secretary-General, with the support of several global powers, to facilitate the initial consultations to prepare for these negotiations.
Prepare an agenda for the negotiations, including sketches of a few concrete proposals for international institutions, processes, or authorities to address this and potential future deployment proposals. Given the magnitude of the challenge, please include a minimum set of agreed outcomes that you judge necessary to address the geopolitical and environmental risks posed by the group’s proposal.
(Note: One problem that you do not need to address is the effect of these negotiations on other parts of the climate-policy agenda, in particular on mitigation: That is the job of Scenario 3.)