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THE PARIS AGREEMENT AND CLIMATE GEOENGINEERING GOVERNANCE THE NEED FOR A HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED COMPONENT

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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  • Sep 8, 2020
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There has been growing recognition in the past decade at both the international and domestic levels of the potential ramifications of climate change for the exercise of human rights. Even more recently, the locus of concern has expanded to include the human rights implications of response measures to confronting climate change. The newly adopted Paris Agreement includes language that calls on its parties to consider, respect and promote the protection of human rights when taking actions to address climate change. However, the agreement fails to suggest specific means to operationalize this mandate. This paper suggests a framework for achieving the objective of protecting human rights in the context of climate change response measures. It focuses on one suite of emerging potential measures that fall under the general rubric of “climate geoengineering,” which is defined as efforts to effectuate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment through technological options in order to counteract the manifestations of climate change. The paper suggests that the parties to the Paris Agreement utilize a human rights-based approach (HRBA) as a framing mechanism to ensure that the potential human rights implications of climate geoengineering options are assessed in the policy-making process moving forward. Such an approach may help to ensure that any potential negative ramifications of climate geoengineering options on the human rights interests of the world’s most vulnerable peoples are taken into account and minimized. Moreover, this analysis might help us to flesh out more broadly the contours of the new human rights language in the Paris Agreement.

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