Canada in violation of international obligations to the CBD…

While Parties at COP11 were considering Climate-Related Geoengineering (Agenda item 11.2), evidence was provided that Canada had broken the geoengineering moratorium. It had failed to prevent a geoengineering scheme from being carried out in the Pacific ocean, close to the Canadian west coast. The scheme involved dumping around one hundred tonnes of iron sulphate into the ocean in July 2012. This created a plankton bloom that spread across some 10,000 square km of ocean. It was so large that it attracted the attention of ocean researchers.
The scheme has also created a media bloom that is spreading around the planet, initiated by the UK Guardian on Monday 15th October 2012. The one place where it does not seem so far to have penetrated is COP11 - and the CBD is where the geoengineering and ocean fertilisation moratoria were born.
There are many facets to this story. It turns out that one of the people behind the scheme is the former chief executive of Planktos Inc. This company formerly sought to carry out commercial dumping projects near the Galapagos and Canary Islands, and got into trouble with the Spanish and Ecuadorean governments, which honoured the moratorium and banned the experiments.
The initiator of the Canadian scheme apparently intended that it should yield lucrative carbon credits, something expressly prohibited under the moratorium (Decision IX/16, Section C, para 4). Indigenous People of the islands of Haida Gwaii were persuaded to set up the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation and to channel their own funds into a 'salmon enhancement project', which they were persuaded would revive their salmon catch and enhance the local ocean ecosystem.

Engineered to fail?

Geoengineering refers to a range of proposed technologies designed to deliberately intervene in and alter earth systems on a large-scale – particularly proposals to technologically manage the climate system as a ‘technofix’ to climate change.
In Oct 2010 the CBD adopted a de facto moratorium on testing and deployment of geoengineering technologies and initiated reports into the governance of geoengineering and potential impacts on biodiversity (decision x/33 paragraphs 8w and 9 l and m).
At SBSTTA 16, Parties will review those studies and make further recommendations for governance of geoengineering. Given the clear conclusions of those studies – that most geoengineering is not governed by other international instruments and also that numerous risks to biodiversity and livelihoods have been identified – this is the moment to reaffirm and strengthen that moratorium and to initiate a geoengineering test ban.

The liaison group on geo-engineering does not fulfil the CBD decision

As participants at the London meeting, we would like to share with you our comments on the liaison group process so far. We do not think the process to date responds well to the mandate from COP 10, in particular to those aspects of it which direct us to:
“Compile and synthesize available scientific information, and views and experiences of indigenous and local communities and other stakeholders on the possible impacts of geo-engineering techniques on biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural considerations, and options on definitions and understandings of climate-related geo-engineering relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity”

Our main comments are as follows:

  • We are concerned that the report as drafted so far draws primarily on two previous reports, by the Royal Society and the IGBP, both of which were written by a group predominantly of people supportive of geo‐engineering. Reliance on those two reports was presented as a 'fact' at the meeting and not subject to discussion by participants.
  • The report does little to address the dearth of knowledge on the question of potential geoengineering impacts on biodiversity.
  • The mandate relates to the impact of geoengineering on biodiversity, yet few biodiversity specialists are involved, very few civil society groups and no indigenous and local communities (ILCs). This is unacceptable as this is a particular contribution that the CBD should make to the debate.
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