The Principles

The “Oxford Principles” are a proposed set of initial guiding principles for the governance of geoengineering.   

Research into geoengineering is at a very early stage, with no guarantee of success.  The Principles are intended to guide the development of geoengineering techniques from early research to the point where they may be available for eventual deployment.  The Principles also stipulate that any decision with respect to deployment only be taken with robust governance structures already in place in order to ensure social legitimacy.  

The Principles are as follows:

  • Principle 1: Geoengineering to be regulated as a public good.

While the involvement of the private sector in the delivery of a geoengineering technique should not be prohibited, and may indeed be encouraged to ensure that deployment of a suitable technique can be effected in a timely and efficient manner, regulation of such techniques should be undertaken in the public interest by the appropriate bodies at the state and/or international levels.

  • Principle 2: Public participation in geoengineering decision-making

Wherever possible, those conducting geoengineering research should be required to notify, consult, and ideally obtain the prior informed consent of, those affected by the research activities. The identity of affected parties will be dependent on the specific technique which is being researched – for example, a technique which captures carbon dioxide from the air and geologically sequesters it within the territory of a single state will likely require consultation and agreement only at the national or local level, while a technique which involves changing the albedo of the planet by injecting aerosols into the stratosphere will likely require global agreement.

  • Principle 3: Disclosure of geoengineering research and open publication of results

There should be complete disclosure of research plans and open publication of results in order to facilitate better understanding of the risks and to reassure the public as to the integrity of the process. It is essential that the results of all research, including negative results, be made publicly available.

  • Principle 4: Independent assessment of impacts

An assessment of the impacts of geoengineering research should be conducted by a body independent of those undertaking the research; where techniques are likely to have transboundary impact, such assessment should be carried out through the appropriate regional and/or international bodies. Assessments should address both the environmental and socio-economic impacts of research, including mitigating the risks of lock-in to particular technologies or vested interests.

  • Principle 5: Governance before deployment

Any decisions with respect to deployment should only be taken with robust governance structures already in place, using existing rules and institutions wherever possible.

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