Developing a National Strategy for Climate Engineering Research in Canada

CIGI Paper No. 153

November 2, 2017

Climate engineering (CE) is increasingly becoming an area of broad public policy interest within international and domestic climate policy discussions. In addition to receiving greater attention within regulatory contexts, there is a gradual shift toward greater support for nationally supported research programs on CE technologies and assessments. Despite the increased salience of CE, the issue has been largely absent from the Canadian public policy agenda. This paper argues that a national strategy for CE research ought to be developed as part of Canada’s broader climate strategy. At the centre of this strategy must be a commitment to ensuring a high level of public trust in the underlying science and a policy process that is open and responsive to public views.

The development of a national CE research strategy is necessary because governance of CE cannot be undertaken in the absence of greater knowledge of CE technologies and their potential impacts. In addition, development of other climate responses, such as mitigation and adaption strategies, will need to be understood in light of the risks of CE, but also the risks associated with forgoing these technologies. As CE technologies become subject to increasing international oversight, the Canadian government needs to develop a greater understanding of these technologies as part of a coherent national position on CE.

The key elements of a national strategy for CE research should include:

  • dedicated funding for CE research;
  • federal oversight of outdoor research activities that is proportional to the risks; and
  • public engagement on the desirability of including different CE technologies as part of Canada’s portfolio of responses to climate change.

About the Author

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.