Thursday, July 26, 2012

German Government Preserves Options in Response to SPD

The German federal government, led by the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has formally responded to a long list of questions about geoengineering recently submitted by the opposition SPD (see German SPD Gives Careful Consideration to Geoengineering, 6/20).  The government was generally noncommittal in its answers, noting the lack of current or planned research initiatives, pleading ignorance with regard to many governance issues, and refusing to take definitive positions.  Following are some highlights (all English translations):

  • In response to question 7 ("What role does the Federal Government see for geoengineering in the limitation of global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era?"), the government states that it "has no defined role for geoengineering in order to limit global warming."  This non-answer is typical of many responses.
  • In response to question 9 ("Does the Federal Government believe that geoengineering entails many risks and cannot replace the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions?"), the government affirms that it "shares this view."
  • In response to question 18 ("How does the Federal Government view the risks of geoengineering compared to the risks of climate change, and does the Federal Government believe that sufficient scientific evidence is available for an appropriate evaluation?"), the government "recognizes the need for research on geoengineering, involving suitable, appropriate expertise to evaluate the effects, consequences, and risks of geoengineering."  In relation to this, the government later describes itself as "critical" of research moratoriums (question 43).
  • Throughout its responses the government clearly aligns itself with last year's agnostic BMBF report (see Two New German Government Reports, 12/19/11), reflecting a combination of studied neutrality and cautious receptivity.
The government repeatedly states that no federally-funded research is underway now or envisioned for the future.  This lack of government research on geoengineering has been criticized by the SPD in reaction to these official government responses.  Rene Rospel, deputy spokesman for SPD research policy, described the responses as "Thin answers with little substance."  "It is surprising and regrettable that so little happens in the field," he continued.  "Germany must not be clueless when new technologies are being used elsewhere" (English translation).  This is consistent with the considered opposition to geoengineering previously exhibited by the SPD.  The absence of government-funded research also contrasts sharply with the growing involvement of German universities and other institutions in pan-European research projects (see Update on EU-Funded Research, 7/19).

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