Geoengineering as a response to anthropogenic climate change is of increasing interest to members of the scientific community. The challenges of developing technologies powerful enough to manipulate the global climate are considerable and varied. As well as the scientific and technical issues, many people (understandably) have concerns about geoengineering. Hence issues of governance are key. As the technologies are in their infancy, it is futile at present to propose detailed regulatory structures, but one place to start is to discuss the values by which the development of geoengineering technologies must be guided. The Oxford Principles, originally proposed in 2009, were one of the first attempts to do so.
A paper now out in the journal Climatic Change, available here, gives an explanation of the values behind the Oxford Principles:
Principle 1: Geoengineering to be regulated as a public good acknowledges the idea that acknowledges that “all of humanity has a common interest in the good of stable climate” and the climate must be managed for the general good.
Principle 2: Public participation in geoengineering decision-making in concerned with the value of legitimacy. Those affected by a decision should have a say in its making.
Principle 3: Disclosure of geoengineering research and open publication of results invokes the value of transparency
Principle 4: Independent assessment of impacts asserts that research (and any decisions to deploy) must exhibit due diligence and that there is a duty of care to the public.
Principle 5: Governance before deployment highlights the need for an accountable governance structure to be in place before any deployment.
These principles are high-level because at present, they cannot be anything else. They are as a starting point for debate. The authors hope that further discussion will serve to elaborate and specify concepts like “general good”, “legitimacy”, “transparency”, “independence”, “duty of care” and “accountability.” Therefore, comments and discussion are welcomed here.