Submission from Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a campaigning organization which
has as its main objective the protection of the natural environment.
Greenpeace has offices in 40 countries, 2.8 million supporters
worldwide and around 150,000 in the UK. It is independent of governments
and businesses, being funded entirely by individual subscriptions.
Greenpeace was one of the first organizations
to campaign for action to be taken to halt anthropogenic climate
change. It has built up considerable expertise and has access
to independent expertise on the links between energy use and climate
change. The expertise includes scientific knowledge, economics
and analysis of state subsidy, as well as understanding of how
the development of traditional approaches to energy can have detrimental
effects on the development of new, cleaner technology to combat
It is widely recognised that climate change
is the gravest threat presently faced by humanity. The most important
greenhouse gas in terms of anthropogenic radiative forcing is
carbon dioxide. The 4th Assessment Report from the IPCC
presented the firmest evidence yet that the threat of severe climate
change impacts means the economies of the developed world must
be decarbonised within such a rapid timeframe that radical action
is necessary. We have less than a decade in which to slow, stop
and reverse the trend of rising greenhouse gas emissions if we
are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
An average rise in global temperature of 2°C
above pre-industrial temperatures is widely regarded as the limit
beyond which irreversible climate change impacts will occur. Global
greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide, have already
generated a rise of 0.7°C and the inbuilt lag in the earth's
atmospheric system means we are already committed to a further
rise of approximately 0.7°C. It is therefore clear that the
window of opportunity to limit global temperature rise below 2°C
is closing swiftly. The very latest evidence from the UK Met Office's
Hadley Centre confirms the necessity to act very swiftly to cut
The context is clearly that global emissions
need to be on a downward path before a further decade has passed-developed
country emissions need to be declining immediately. Yet in UK
CO2 emissions have barely gone down the past decade. This is despite
obvious technical and policy measures that could deliver energy
and carbon saving including better management of heat, product
standards on appliances and vehicles, better support to renewable
energy technologies, proactive policy to deal with the poor thermal
quality of the UK building stock etc. Much or all of this critique
could be applied to EU and North America. In other words, the
most effective ways of dealing with climate change are not being
adopted owing to a lack of political will and commitment to tackling
the greatest long-term threat to humanity.
It is also clear that action is being impeded
by vested interests including the industries that profit from
the status quo. This has been most visible in the case
energy intensive industries-other
examples of effective industry lobby to avoid environmental protection
are from chemicals regulation.
Even this month challenges to weaken rules on the EU Emissions
Trading Scheme-the preferred low-cost compliance option which
is the cornerstone of EU Emissions reduction plans-came from governments
representing coal based industry.
The reason for this political activity by companies is straightforward-it
prevents change that would otherwise undermine their commercial
position. Time, money, effort and innovation which could be dedicated
to solving the climate crisis are instead dedicated to its maintenance.
Thus the concept of "geo-engineering"
enters a highly charged political and economic context where change
on climate policy grounds will create winners and losers. At a
societal level we have a "moral hazard"
in that the promise of geo-engineering, however speculative, reinforces
behaviour that makes its need more likely. The wider point is
not the pros and cons of particular technologies, but that the
scientific community is becoming so scared of our collective inability
to tackle climate emissions that such outlandish schemes are being
considered for serious study. We already have the technology and
know-how to make dramatic cuts in global emissions-but it's not
happening, and those closest to the climate science are coming
near to pressing the panic button. A focus on tinkering with our
entire planetary system is not a dynamic new technological and
scientific frontier, but an expression of political despair.
Consequently, Greenpeace believes that there
need to be very strict conditions attached to research into any
potential candidates for geo-engineering. Specifically:
1. All propositions for geo-engineering
research must be evaluated using strict and precautionary sets
of rules, including scientific, legal and policy components, developed
and overseen by international cross-disciplinary advisory committees
set up under UN auspices. Scientific expertise needs to include
ecology, engineering and life cycle analysis. Political components
need to have at the very least regional and stakeholder representation.
Legal compliance with international agreements would be a necessity.
2. There need to be pre-set criteria for
environmental and social acceptability.
3. Actual geo-engineering should be prohibited
except for research agreed through the international governance
arrangements. No payments should be considered through, eg CDM,
before sign off by these committees.
Criteria in (2) need to recognize that not every
proposition is necessarily environmentally damaging, but there
are features of the risks associated with their implementation.
1. Ideas which remove CO2 and other gases
from the atmosphere by physical means are less interventionist
that those which use existing ecosystems, and deliver more effective
change than those which try to "reflect" heat. In addition
to climate change, CO2 also causes ocean acidification which will
potentially have serious impacts on the marine ecosystems and
on coastal communities. Ocean fertilization as a mitigation strategy,
whether with iron or other nutrients, could exacerbate this problem,
damage marine ecosystems and even result in increased emissions
of other, biogenic greenhouse gases. A Note published on iron
fertilization published last year by the Greenpeace International
Science Laboratory is submitted as an appendix.
2. Large scale intervention in natural ecosystems
is generally perturbing systems that we do not understand with
the potential for widespread, unpredictable and long-lasting adverse
consequences. It should be subject to the precautionary principle.
3. There needs to be a thorough understanding
of the life-cycle impacts of any propositions.
This approach and criteria are suggested because
of the context in which geo-engineering ideas are being raised.
It is a much better option for society as a whole to use existing
technology and policy to reduce emissions rather than attempt
the potentially dangerous approaches that geo-engineering propositions
represent. Public money and policy focus is better spent on this
than on speculative and potentially risky geo-engineering ideas.
26 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
(2007), Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007: Synthesis
Report-Summary for Policymakers. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf Back
Vicky Pope, Hadley Centre, Met Office "Degrees of Caution",
Guardian, 1 October 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/oct/01/climatechange.carbonemissions Back