Friday, July 27, 2012

German Greens Weigh In

The German Green Party has added its voice to the burgeoning conversation about climate engineering in Germany.  On Monday, the Heinrich Boll Foundation, a Green think-tank, released a report titled "Geo-Engineering: Is There a Plan(et) B?."  While the report is deeply skeptical toward geoengineering, it also calls for broad public dialogue and opposes any blanket prohibition on research. Indeed, the report suggests 8 "policy guidelines" to help shape future developments in the field (pp. 52-54, English translations):

  1. Governance issues must always be resolved before use.
  2. Independent testing is essential.
  3. There must be public participation in decisions about geo-engineering.
  4. Research must be transparent and results must be accessible.
  5. Geo-engineering should not be driven by economic profit.
  6. A binding international moratorium on applications and experiments along the lines of that suggested by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is necessary.
  7. International cooperation in research is also needed.
  8. The best climate policy is CO2 emissions avoidance.
At first glance, guideline 6 supporting a CBD-type moratorium might seem inconsistent with the other recommendations.  But such apparent contradiction is solely an artifact of the erroneous view propagated by ETC Group and others that the CBD moratorium is an outright ban, which it is not.  The CBD moratorium is a voluntary, temporary, and conditional suspension of large-scale and commercial geoengineering activities instituted in the absence of a governing international regulatory framework (see The Meaning of the Moratorium, 10/31/10).  The articulation of policy guidelines for geoengineering research and development that incorporate a limited, CBD-style moratorium undercuts any claim that a definitive ban has been adopted by the international community.  Moreover, the formulation of such guidelines by no less a natural ally than the German Green Party must cause considerable consternation among ETC Group and its friends.

Developments in Germany over the past few weeks seem to be turning conventional wisdom on its head.  One might expect to see the conservative CDU, its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the allied, free-market Free Democratic Party (FDP) cautiously supportive of geoengineering research, and the SPD and Greens implacably opposed.  Instead, the governing CDU appears markedly unenthusiastic about federally-funded research, while the SPD and Greens advocate limited but meaningful research on the grounds that our worst option is to make decisions about geoengineering in ignorance of its full range of costs and benefits.  Perhaps this exchange will prompt the CDU to take a more sophisticated and proactive stance on climate engineering.

(Thanks to Jesse Reynolds for bringing the HBF report to my attention.)

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