In our rush to solve the climate change crisis, technology will play an important role. However, we need to be wary that any technological fixes don’t make the problem worse or create new ones. Many people are worried that technologies will be fast-tracked without adequate testing, potentially adding a new wave of environmental and social problems that will compound the climate crisis.
That’s the concern of over 160 civil society groups, including social movements and NGOs, which today released a joint declaration on technology called Let’s Look Before We Leap! The declaration alerts governments to the absence of any precautionary environmental and social assessment mechanisms in the draft Copenhagen agreement on technology, and claims that the current approach poses grave threats to human health, human rights, rural livelihoods, diverse ecosystems and climate stability.
The negotiating texts in Copenhagen refer repeatedly to the need to rapidly develop and deploy so-called environmentally sound technologies. However, the text is silent on evaluating controversial new technologies which claim to be climate-friendly but are, in fact, harmful. The groups note that technologies such as geoengineering, genetic engineering and agrofuels (biofuels) are examples of risky or hazardous technologies that may receive an unwarranted boost through agreements made in Copenhagen. In addition to these new technologies, there is a fear that old hazardous technologies like nuclear power will be given new life as solutions to climate change.
Some signatories to the joint declaration of technology also worry that whatever technology agreement results from the Copenhagen meetings could become a funding mechanism for venture-capital-backed greenwashing exercises, rather than one that will facilitate access to truly environmentally sound technologies and clean energy.