Designing Procedural Mechanisms for the Governance of Solar Radiation Management Field Experiments

CIGI Workshop Report

May 22, 2015

The unexpected ocean fertilization experiment off the west coast of Canada in 2012 highlights the reality that non-governmental actors can already initiate small- to medium-scale environmental experiments and solar radiation management (SRM) field experiments with no government funding or approval. Without careful consideration and development of a governance framework for these types of experimentation, governments could be caught out having to respond ad hoc to situations driven by non-governmental actors.

This two-day workshop considered and evaluated governance mechanisms that may be useful for managing proposed SRM field experiments. Two specific procedural mechanisms were under consideration: environmental impact assessments and research registries. To ensure discussions were as realistic as possible, participants used a set of recently published SRM field experiment proposals as hypothetical examples when considering and evaluating both mechanisms. The workshop operated under the Chatham House Rule, and no attempts were made to forge consensus positions or to generate policy recommendations. Rather, this workshop was exploratory in nature, with discussions ranging widely along with personal opinions on some topics. 

About the Authors

Neil Craik is a CIGI senior fellow. He is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo where he teaches and researches in the fields of international and Canadian environmental law.  

Jack Doughty is a researcher in climate engineering governance in the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy at University College London. 

Joshua Horton is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he conducts research on geoengineering policy and governance issues.