Open letter to IPCC on geoengineering

By Hands off Mother Earth

Rajendra K. Pachauri
Chairman of the IPCC
C/O World Meteorological Organization
7bis Avenue de la Paix
C.P. 2300
CH- 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Dear Dr. Pachauri,

The undersigned organizations would like to express our concerns about the upcoming IPCC joint working group expert meeting on geoengineering to be held in Lima, Peru, June 20-22, 2011.

Geoengineering, the intentional large-scale manipulation of the Earth’s systems to modify the climate, is one of the most serious issues the international community will face in the decades ahead. The prospects of artificially changing the chemistry of our oceans to absorb more CO2, modifying the Earth’s radiative balance, devising new carbon sinks in fragile ecosystems, redirecting hurricanes and other extreme weather events are alarming. The potential for accidents, dangerous experiments, inadequate risk assessment, unexpected impacts, unilateralism, private profiteering, disruption of agriculture, inter-state conflict, illegitimate political goals and negative consequences for the global South is high. The likelihood that geoengineering will provide a safe, lasting, democratic and peaceful solution to the climate crisis is non-existent.

The IPCC aims to be “policy relevant” and “policy neutral,” and must take great care not to squander its credibility on geoengineering, a topic that is gathering steam precisely when there is no real progress on mitigation and adaptation. The IPCC’s announcement of the expert meeting already suggests that geoengineering has a place in the portfolio of legitimate responses to climate change (a highly contestable claim), and that the role of the IPCC is to define what that role is. Permit us to stress that this is not primarily a scientific question; it is a political one. International peasant organizations, indigenous peoples, and social movements have all expressed outright opposition to such measures as a false solution to the climate crisis.

The Scientific Steering Group of this expert meeting includes well-known geoengineering advocates who have called for steep increases in funding for research and for proceeding with experimentation, as well as scientists who have patents pending on geoengineering technologies and/or other financial interests. Asking a group of geoengineering scientists if more research should be done on the topic is like asking a group of hungry bears if they would like honey. Their predictable answer should be viewed with skepticism. At the same time, independent organizations, which have devoted years of critical research to geoengineering, are not allowed to participate, even as observers.

Furthermore, we are concerned that the IPCC appears to be wading into waters beyond its expertise and mandate. The expert meeting, for instance, describes “appropriate governance mechanisms” as part of its mandate, and participants will discuss the “suitability of existing governance mechanisms for managing geoengineering, including social, legal and political factors.” This is a crucial discussion that has already begun at the international level among governments and civil society, most notably at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Japan in 2010. That meeting agreed to adopt a de facto moratorium on real-world experimentation until a number of conditions are met. The critical question of governance is one that needs to be fully debated by the international community, with all interested states, civil society organizations, indigenous peoples and farmers’ organizations taking part in a clearly democratic, multilateral transparent and accountable way. Scientists from the IPCC should participate in that debate, but they do not have the expertise or legitimacy to determine the suitability of existing governance mechanisms.

In the months ahead, as the Fifth Assessment Report is prepared, civil society organizations concerned with climate change and geoengineering will closely scrutinize the IPCC’s work. In particular, we will look for the IPCC to come out clearly and strongly in favour of the strict application of the precautionary principle and against any real-world geoengineering experimentation.

On the expert meeting, before its report is published and its conclusions are shared more broadly, we urge the IPCC to ensure that a variety of civil society voices is heard, understood, and taken into account, particularly from the global South. This will provide much-needed common sense and a global perspective, as well as a counterpoint to the more prominent and extreme positions of some Northern scientists engaged in geoengineering research.

We thank you for your attention to these issues and look forward to your reply.

Signatory organizations as of June 15th, 2011

African Biodiversity Network, Africa, international
ATALC – Amigos de la Tierra America Latina y Caribe, Latin America, international
Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indígenas -CAOI, Andean, international
ETC group, international
Friends of the Earth International
Global Forest Coalition, International
Global Justice Ecology Project, International
GRAIN, International
Land is Life, international network of indigenous communities and organizations
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, International
International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), US / international
OILWATCH Sudamérica, international
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Africa, International
RALLT, Red por una América Latina libre de Transgénicos, Latin America, international
Red Latinoamericana contra los Monocultivos de Árboles (RECOMA), Latin America, international
Redmanglar Internacional, Guatemala, international
Temple of Understanding US / international
Third World Network, international
Via Campesina, International Peasant Movement, international
World Future Council Foundation, international
World Rainforest Movement / Mov. Mundial de Bosques, international

Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Inc, Australia
Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
Acción por la Biodiversidad, Argentina
ADEID, Action pour un Développement Équitable, Intégré et Durable, Cameroon
African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa
Alliance Sud, Switzerland
Amigos da Terra, Brazil
Amigu di Tera FoE Curaçao, Brazil
APUNA, Andhra Pradesh United Nations Association, India
Asociación ANDES, Cusco, Perú
Bio WILD Foundation, Biodiversity and Wildlife Integration for Livelihood Development, INDIA
Biofuelwatch, UK / US
Casifop, México
Ceccam, México
Cenami, México
Censat Agua Viva, Colombia
Center for Cultural Interchange and Greenheart, USA
Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project, Durban, South Africa
Centro Ecológico IPÉ, Brazil
Centro Ecologista Renacer, Argentina
Centro Fray Julián Garcés de Derechos Humanos y Desarrollo Comunitario, México
CESTA, Amigos de la Tierra El Salvador
Colectivo COA, México
Colectivo Voces Ecológicas COVEC, Panamá
Consejo de Ejidos y Comunidades Opositores a la Presa La Parota (CECOP), México
Cook Islands Climate Action Network (CICAN), Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Cooperativa por un Ambiente Biodiverso y Sustentable, CAMBIOS, S.C. de R.L.,México
Corner House, UK
Cuarto Menguante Aliento por la conservación A.C., México
Dewan Adat Papua, New Guinea
Dogwood Alliance – Asheville, NC, USA
Ecological Society of the Philippines
Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
Ecomunidades, red ecologista autónoma de la cuenca de México
Educación AT Argentina
CEIBA AT, Guatemala
Ethiopian Society or Consumer Protection, Ethiopia
Fair Coop (Fair Trade), Italy
Family Farm Defenders, Madison, Wi, USA
FASE, Brazil
Fondation Sciences Citoyennes, France
Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra y el Agua, Región Malinche, México
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Food First, US
Food Freedom, US
Fundación Heifer-Ecuador
Fundación por el Futuro, Madrid, España
Fundación Promotora de Cooperativas – FUNPROCOOP, El Salvador
Gaia Foundation, UK
GMWatch, UK
Greenovation Center, China
Grupo SEMILLAS,Colombia
Grupo Thunhupha, Bolivia
IBON International, Philippines
Indian biodiversity forum, India
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA
Institute of Science in Society, Mae-Wan Ho, UK
Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo, Ecuador.
International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation, USA
Institute for Social Ecology, USA
ITC, Comité Intertribal, Brazil
Island Sustainability Alliance CIS Inc (ISACI) Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS
Movimiento Madre Tierra, Honduras
Ka Lahui Hawai’i
Kiee Lu’u S.S.S. México
L’Union Paysanne, Canada
La Asamblea Veracruzana de Iniciativa y Defensa Ambiental (LAVIDA), México
Mangrove Action Project, USA
Movimiento de la Juventud Kuna, Panamá
Movimiento por la Vida y la Equidad Campesina, El Salvador
Na Koa Ikaika KaLahui Hawaii
National Indigenous Peoples of Solomons Islands (NIPS), Solomon Islands
National Toxics Network Inc. Coordinator, Australia
New World Society For Friendship Cooperation And Peace, India
Ngati Hine tribe of the Bay Of Islands, New Zealand
NusaAlifuru of Maluku (Pacific, considered Indonesian)
Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales -OLCA, Chile
OFRANEH, Organizacion Fraternal Negra Hondureña, Honduras
Ole Siosiomaga Society Incorporated (OLSSI), SAMOA
Organización de Agricultores Biológicos A. C., México
Philippinenbuero e.V. im Asienhaus; Germany
Proceso de Comunidades Negras de Colombia
Rainforest Rescue – Rettet den Regenwald, Germany
Red de Coordinación en Biodiversidad, Costa Rica
Rede Brazileira de Pesquisas em Nanotecnologia – RENANOSOMA, Brazil
REDES AT, Uruguay
SAFEAGE, Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa
Salva la Selva, Spain
Savia, Escuela de Pensamiento Ecologista, Guatemala
SEARICE, Philippines
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership, United States
Sunray Harvesters, India
SWISSAID, Switzerland
Seeds Action Network, Germany
Terra de Direitos, Human Rights Organization- Brazil
Terra-1530, Moldova
Texas Drought Project, USA
The Development Fund, Norway
The Enviro Show, Western Massachusetts/USA
The Koani Foundation, Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii
The Noordhoek Environmental Action Group, Cape Town, South Africa
Un Salto de Vida, AC, El Salto, Jalisco, México
US Federation for Middle East Peace (USFMEP), USA


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