Unea fails to nail deal on solar engineering

Saturday March 02 2024

Delegates attending United Nations Environment Assembly (Unea) meeting at Unep headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya on February 29,2024. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG


Delegates attending the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (Unea-6) failed to strike a deal on solar engineering but adopted 15 resolutions, two draft decisions and one ministerial declaration.

The culmination of the assembly provides the world with new policies and standards that are supposed to be implemented by countries to protect environment.

Leila Benali, Unea-6 president, said that the just concluded conference was the most inclusive in history and that the ministerial declaration represents great urgency for the planet and urged environment ministers around the world to uphold a number of actions.

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Some of the resolutions that were passed were improving air quality globally, doing away with highly hazardous pests and chemicals, sound management of chemicals and waste, and strengthening water policies.

But one of the resolutions that Unep executive director Inger Andersen had hoped would be passed was withdrawn in the early hours of the final day for fear of unknown impact on the environment should it be adopted.


The resolution is on solar engineering, also known as solar radiation modification and it was strongly opposed by delegations, especially those from Africa.

Ms Andersen said the withdrawal shows that “we still need to have further understanding of the technology.”

“Many countries and people may not have fully internalised this highly complex technology. It made it clear that our role as Unep is to keep our eyes on the horizon and see what new waves may be hitting our environmental shores and assess their impact before we have a global conversation on deployment,” she said. “Many times, Unep has been brought in when technology has already done damage like the use of lead in petrol, or use of mercury. This is why it should be better, in our view, to have a global conversation.”

According to Havard’s Geoengineering Programme, solar engineering is a technology that creates a blanket between earth and the sun thereby bouncing back the sun’s rays into space instead of allowing it to penetrate into earth surface in a bid to make the planet cooler.

“Solar geoengineering does not address the root cause of climate change. It instead aims to break the link from concentrations to temperatures, thereby reducing some climate damages,” says a Havard report.

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The withdrawal precedes earlier precautions on the approach to geoengineering by other UN bodies especially the Convention on Biological Diversity who argued that biodiversity species will be lost should countries adopt this.

However, some countries that were already investing in geoengineering studies, opposed the mention of precaution in the resolution and proposed that there needs to be a scientific study on the “risks and benefits” of solar geoengineering technologies.

Mary Church, a geoengineering campaign manager at Centre for International Environmental Law, said the opposition sends a powerful message underscoring a broad commitment to upholding international law.