Carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise and, despite ongoing international climate negotiations, States have failed to agree to a second commitment period of greenhouse gas emissions reductions to replace the Kyoto Protocol. In response to the concern that the 2° C degree limit for avoiding dangerous climate change this Century may soon be out of reach, some scientists and policy-makers are evaluating potential technological options to address the adverse effects of climate change. ‘Climate engineering’ (or ‘geoengineering’) refers to deliberate large-scale interventions in the Earth’s climate system. Solar radiation management (SRM) is one category of climate engineering methods which aims to increase the amount of sunlight that is reflected away from the Earth and back into space, e.g., by installing mirrors in space or injecting sulfate particles into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight. SRM would create entirely new environmental conditions, and entails high uncertainties and potentially severe side-effects and distributional implications.

The question of whether State or group of States could be held responsible under the current international legal system for the breach of an international obligation arising from SRM deployment is just one of the complex legal and governance issues that arise with regard to climate engineering. In addition to issues relating to legal standing and the breach of the primary norms, the establishment of a direct causal link between an SRM interventions in the climate system and specific damage would likely play out as a significant and contentious issue in an international dispute. Although there is some overlap between the examples of state responsibility for climate change damage and for damage connected with SRM deployment, there are also major differences in the legal analysis of these two cases, which will be explored in greater detail in this talk.

Anna-Maria Hubert, LL.M. studied law at the University of Calgary in Canada and is a doctoral candidate at the Universitaet Bremen, Germany. She is a research associate at the IASS in Potsdam with an interest in international environmental law and the law of the sea. She is currently involved in a number of research project related to the legal and regulatory aspects of governing climate engineering.

David Reichwein, LL.B. studied law at the Bucerius Law School in Hamburg and Victoria University of Wellington, NZ. Since December 2009 he is a PhD candidate at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. He was a Fellow at the Marsilius College, University of Heidelberg and is currently employed by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam.