Tomorrow, the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) opens in Nagoya, Japan, and geoengineering is on the agenda. A coalition of governments and interest groups, most notably ETC Group, are pushing for adoption of the following draft decision:
[(w) Ensure, in line and consistent with decision IX/16 C, on ocean fertilization and biodiversity and climate change, and in accordance with the precautionary approach, that no climate-related geo- engineering activities take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks for the environment and biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural impacts;]
Adopting this decision would effectively place a moratorium on geoengineering within the context of the CBD. Such a ban would be important in terms of symbolism, precedent, and global norms, but its practical effects would be unclear, as the convention is largely aspirational and lacks significant international obligations or commitments. The text was bracketed by Canadian diplomats, signaling a lack of consensus on its proposal to COP10. Despite this objection, a prohibition on geoengineering will be considered by delegates during the two-week conference. It will be very instructional to watch which positions national governments take on this issue, and to attempt to deduce their motives.