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FP7

EuTRACE Report Summary

Project ID: 306395
Funded under: FP7-ENVIRONMENT
Country: Germany

Final Report Summary - EUTRACE (European Trans-disciplinary Assessment of Climate Engineering)

Executive Summary:
EuTRACE is providing a trans-disciplinary assessment of Climate Engineering from a European Perspective. It is a support and collaboration action project, FP7-funded, which started in June 2012 and ended end of September 2014.
The project regards the rapidly gaining scientific, political, commercial, and public attention with regards to Climate Engineering (CE) in the context of climate change. A solid science-policy-society interaction is an important prerequisite for a rational discourse over the acceptability and desirability of proposed CE technologies. The EUTRACE Final report offers a distinct European perspective, particularly with regard to the EU and how CE relates to its ambitious climate targets.

Drawing on the expertise of 14 world-class institutions from five countries, EuTRACE has the following specific objectives:
1. to pool top independent experts engaged in CE and general climate research across Europe to develop a next-generation assessment of the potentials, uncertainties, risks, and implications of various CE options, and the criteria to assess whether or not any of these options should ever be implemented;
2. to actively engage in dialogue with the public and policy makers and other civil society stakeholders through a series of dedicated outreach events (listed under www.eutrace.org) to disseminate information about CE and to adequately address concerns and perspectives across Europe and globally and incorporate them in the assessment;
3. to outline policy options and pathways for the EU and its partners in Europe and abroad to address the challenges CE poses;
4. to identify the most important gaps in current understanding of climate engineering.

EuTRACE investigates proposals to modify the planetary albedo and to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in the context of mitigation and adaptation.
The project focuses on three example techniques:
1. BECCS (Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) which combines carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology with biomass burning for electricity generation or bio-ethanol production.
2. Ocean Iron Fertilisation (OIF) which increases the so-called “biological carbon pump” by fertilising the oceans with key nutrients such as iron to promote greater algal growth. Parts of the algae sink into the deep ocean and thus remove carbon from the ocean surface.
3. Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI) which aims to increase the reflection of sunlight away from Earth by increasing the amount of aerosol particles in the lower stratosphere by directly injecting particles or their precursor gases.

Project Context and Objectives:
The global increase in the atmospheric concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), has led to a rise in the global mean surface temperature, as well as regional mean temperatures for all continental-scale regions of the world. Global warming is accompanied by numerous other changes in the climate and Earth system, such as rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. These in turn create risks for societies and human wellbeing, especially in the absence of appropriate and effective social (economic, political, cultural) institutions that mediate such impacts and have the potential to reduce their severity.

The most direct means of addressing the risks associated with anthropogenic climate change is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases (mitigation). The technological means required for this exist and are improving rapidly, making mitigation a feasible climate policy option and a necessary component of any prudent climate policy portfolio. However, skepticism regarding the political willingness to implement mitigation efforts, as well as the lack of public support for implementing such measures, raise concerns about the anticipated scale of future mitigation efforts. Estimates of the costs associated with economic and social investments required to transform sectors such as energy and mobility in order to notably reduce emissions vary depending on underlying assumptions, for example, about the degree of discounting and the choice of damage function. Although these costs are significant fractions of indicators like GDP, many consider them to be small in comparison to the long-term benefits that would be gained from avoiding the dangerous impacts of climate change. However, costs for mitigation accrue immediately, while the benefits of reducing emissions will only be realised on timescales of decades into the future, which has been a major disincentive for mitigation. While some countries have nonetheless begun implementing mitigation policies even without binding international agreements, international efforts to reduce emissions have thus far been ineffective in stabilising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and potentially severe risks from climate change continue to grow. Based on this, and also in the face of scientific uncertainties about climate sensitivity, concerns persist that current mitigation efforts lag behind what would be necessary to avoid potentially dangerous climate change. Against this background, a growing community of academics and stakeholders have begun considering the feasibility of further possibilities for addressing climate change, which include two main proposed approaches:

(1) Removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere for subsequent usage or storage. The primary focus is on CO2. Ideas include enhancing the uptake of carbon in natural sinks, for instance in forests, soils, and the oceans, or injecting CO2 into subsurface rock formations deep beneath the land surface or seabed.

(2) Modifying the planetary albedo, i.e., increasing the amount of solar radiation that is reflected back to space, thus reducing global mean surface temperatures. Ideas include injecting reflective particles into the atmosphere at 15–25 km altitude, injecting particles into the marine atmospheric boundary layer to increase the reflectivity of clouds, and increasing the reflectivity of land surfaces, for example roof tops or deserts.

For each of these two possible approaches, numerous techniques have been proposed and are being investigated. Collectively, this broad range of techniques is commonly subsumed under the umbrella term “climate engineering” (or “geoengineering”, which is often used synonymously).

Against this background, the EuTRACE project aims:

1. to pool top independent experts engaged in CE and general climate research across Europe to develop a next-generation assessment of the potentials, uncertainties, risks, implications, and the criteria to assess whether or not to implement various CE options;
2. to actively engage in dialogue with the public and policy makers and other civil society stakeholders to disseminate information about CE and to adequately address concerns and perspectives across Europe and globally and incorporate them in the assessment;
3. to outline policy options and pathways for the EU and its partners in Europe and abroad to address the challenges CE poses;
4. to identify the most important gaps in current understanding of climate engineering.

14 partner organizations from Germany, the UK, Norway, France and Austria, ranging from the natural sciences & engineering, social sciences and the humanities have joined forces to address these questions. A focus was thereby laid on Bioenergy from Carbon Capture and Sequestration (BECCS), Ocean Iron Fertilization (OIF) and Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI).

Project Results:
EuTRACE is a coordination and support action and as such as has not developed scientific & technology results/foreground as collaborative research projects would do. Indeed, its focus was to identify actual research options and possibilities. For a summary of main results, please see executive summary, Deliverable. 5.2, as well as chapters 6 and 7 of the final assessment report (Deliverable 5.1).

Potential Impact:
EuTRACE has a broad European approach, in contrast to previous assessment reports, e.g. produced in Germany or the UK, which took a more national focus and engaged mostly national stakeholders. By contrast, EuTRACE draws together a dedicated European network of researchers and will focus on the European perspective. The contribution of network partners and permanent and frequent exchange with them guarantees that new results of the assessment are directly distributed within the scientific community.
By engaging a broader international set of stakeholders in addition to the partners, EuTRACE has identified current and emerging positions on climate engineering. This is of particular importance as the debate has been emerging in an increasing number of countries and.

The assessment is a major step forward in the natural sciences understanding of climate engineering, moving forward from single-model, initial exploratory studies, to coordinated multi-model analysis and intercomparison exercises. The first of these, the EU FP7 project IMPLICC (http://implicc.zmaw.de), has ended at the same time as EuTRACE has started. This has been complimented by a larger international project, GeoMIP (http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/GeoMIP/index.html), which is closely coordinated with both IMPLICC and the CMIP5 (IPCC) simulations, and first results from the 17 participating models have been published during the course of EuTRACE. All of the project PIs from IMPLICC, and most of the key European participants in GeoMIP are partners within EuTRACE, so that we can rely directly on the deep scientific expertise of this community, rather than only second-hand interpretations of published literature.

EuTRACE has produced more than a simple assessment report: its explicit aim was to further advance the European debate on climate engineering by actively engaging different stakeholder communities all across Europe, and to set up structures to help maintain this beyond the lifetime of the project. EuTRACE has therefore been in our eyes just the beginning, the assessment report being a point of departure and basis for discussion, instead of a simple incremental literature review.

Together, EuTRACE has advanced the state of the art by providing (1) updated information, (2) novel and more diverse perspectives and (3) an explicit set of EU-focused recommendations and options.

List of Websites:

www.eutrace.org,
EuTRACE secretariat: IASS, Berlinerstr. 130, 14467 Potsdam Germany
E-Mail: tanja.baines@iass-potsdam.de

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INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED SUSTAINABILITY STUDIES EV
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