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Climate Engineering Under the Paris Agreement

December 2019

Citation: ELR 11113

Author: Neil Craik and William C.G. Burns

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.

Neil Craik is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. William C.G. Burns is Co-Director, Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy, School of International Service, American University, Washington, D.C.

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