Environmental policies

The EU: Global governance of geoengineering needed to avoid global security risks

Since 2013, the IPCC has been considering using geoengineering solutions to change the climate

(sustainabilityenvironment.com) – The climate crisis triggers or aggravates conflicts, humanitarian crises and migratory movements. It heavily influences the EU’s foreign and neighbourhood policy. It increases instability and foments social tensions. And for this reason it is a “growing risk for international peace and security”. To address the link between climate change and security, Brussels is deploying a strategy of 30 actions across 4 thematic pillars. And among the many dedicated to the armed forces and security policy in the proper sense, there is also a proposal on geoengineering.

More integration between climate crisis and security policy

This new strategy paper does not add much in substantial terms to the way the EU approaches the climate crisis from the security angle. The pivotal definition of climate change as “threat multiplier” dates back to 2008, is shared with all NATO documents, and remains unchanged in the latter Joint Communication. The way climate is integrated at all levels of planning and policy is changing.

The essence of the communication on the link between climate change and security and the 30 actions, in fact, is to ensure that the climate crisis, environmental degradation, pollution and its main and derived impacts are taken into account at every stage of the development of the European security policy. Most of the initiatives announced today have precisely the integration and sharing of data as a pole star: the creation of a data and analysis hub on climate and environmental security within the EU Satellite Centre, the deployment of environmental advisors in EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations, the creation of training platforms at national and EU level, such as the EU Climate, Security and Defence Training Platform. Furthermore, the development of in-depth analyses and studies on policies and related actions, especially in vulnerable geographical areas such as the Sahel or the Arctic.

The EU proposal on geoengineering

However, a new initiative emerges from within the document. The communication touches on the theme of geoengineering, that is the use of particular techniques to manipulate some aspects of the Earth’s climate system, from the shielding of part of the solar radiation to the alkalinization of the oceans. Brussels takes a clear position: geoengineering is too risky, there are not enough studies on its side effects, but it is also a deregulated sector. It is therefore a good idea to tackle the dossier at international level and put limits before someone decides to make a run for it.

“The deliberate large-scale interventions in the natural systems of the Earth (called “geoengineering”), such as the modification of solar radiation” are increasingly in the spotlight, the document recognizes. The IPCC has been dealing with it since 2013 while other UN agencies, such as UNEP, have touched on the issue more recently. “However, the risks, impacts and unintended consequences of these technologies are little known and the necessary rules, procedures and institutions have not been developed,” the text continues. Which lists the risks: “These technologies introduce new risks to people and ecosystems, while they could also increase power imbalances between nations, trigger conflicts and raise myriad ethical, legal, governance and policy issues”.

For these reasons, “guided by the precautionary principle”, the EU wants more research and the creation of a global governance of geoengineering. Brussels will “support international efforts to comprehensively assess the risks and uncertainties of climate change interventions, including changing solar radiation, and promote discussions on a potential international framework for its governance, including research aspects”.

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