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Climate Engineering Under the Paris Agreement

Wil Burns's picture
Visiting Professor, Environmental Policy & Culture Program, Northwestern University

Dr. Wil Burns is a Visiting Professor in the Environmental Policy & Culture Program at Northwestern University. Prior to this, he was the Founding Co-Director of the Institute for Carbon...

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  • Aug 31, 2020
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Recent assessments of the international community’s ability to hold the increase of global average temperature to well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit that increase to 1.5°C, indicate that this goal is unlikely to be achieved without large-scale implementation of climate engineering (CE) technologies. In light of the prominent, albeit contested, role that CE is likely to play in international climate policy, this Article analyzes the specific provisions of the Paris Agreement with a view to assessing the extent to which the Agreement can provide an institutional framework to effectively govern CE internationally, and how it may shape the development and implementation of CE options. In particular, the Article examines a number of critical interpretive questions that will need to be addressed as states begin to develop CE technologies at large scales, including the need to provide guidance respecting the acceptability of exceeding the Paris targets before drawing down atmospheric CO2 levels, the challenges for equity, human rights, and sustainability objectives that CE poses, and the need to incorporate CE technologies into accounting and incentive structures.

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