Anthony Chavez

Northern Kentucky University

I) The Interrelation of Human Rights and Geoengineering

Geoengineering may be the only means to protect human rights in a world with a changed climate. Scientists generally agree that mitigation efforts will fall short of avoiding significant planetary warming. The resulting climate change will impact many basic needs of human populations. A number of human rights will be implicated by these impacts, such as the rights to life, food, water, and housing. Parties to human rights treaties commit not only to respect these rights, but to protect them. Thus, if society is to protect these rights, geoengineering may be the only option. Nevertheless, using human rights to compel geoengineering remedies will not be easy. Human rights do not protect environmental quality. Furthermore, they protect citizens from acts of their government, not those committed by a government of a different state. However, recent developments in human rights law can support their application to impairments caused by climate change. Application of human rights to geoengineering decisions could yield additional benefits. First, it will provide a basis to decide among possible responses to climate change. Second, human rights laws require procedural safeguards, such as environmental assessments and transparency. Third, it keeps a focus on human suffering and possible remedies. 

II) Using Renewable Portfolio Standards to Accelerate Development of Negative Emissions Technologies

Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) can be used to incentivize and accelerate the development of negative emissions technologies (NETs). IPCC models rely upon NETs to suggest that dangerous planetary warming is still avoidable, yet NETs are woefully underdeveloped. Questions abound concerning, among other things, the technologies’ effectiveness, time required to develop, and viability at scale. State and national governments have used RPSs to require utilities to generate a mandated percentage of electricity from renewable sources. These jurisdictions tailored their RPS mandates to fit the states’ particular circumstances. Consequently, use of RPSs accelerated development of renewable energy. For instance, up to 60% of the growth of renewables in the United States is attributed to their use. Similarly, RPSs can stimulate development of NETs. Jurisdictions can craft RPSs to promote particular NETs that fit the states’ economies, their resources, and/or industries they seek to develop. State-level RPSs, as opposed to national standards, enable the “laboratories of democracy” to experiment with different regulatory approaches, complementing the heterogeneity of NETs. Current RPSs include mechanisms (credits multipliers, carve outs, subsidies) to stimulate development of preferred technologies. Jurisdictions can apply similar mechanisms to promote particular NETs. Also, states that have already established carbon credits systems through their RPSs can apply them to monitor and measure the effectiveness of their NETs.

Anthony E. Chavez is Professor of Law at Chase College of Law, Northern Kentucky University.  He teaches classes on environmental law, renewable energy law, the law of climate change, natural resources law, and the legal and environmental aspects of business transactions.  Professor Chavez’s scholarly work focuses on climate engineering, including legal systems to facilitate development of negative emission technologies, the interaction of geoengineering and human rights laws, using legal principles to guide the deployment of geoengineering, and the patenting of climate engineering inventions.  Professor Chavez received his B.S. in Accounting from Loyola Marymount University and his J.D. from Yale Law School.  Before beginning his teaching career, he practiced as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Bingham-McCutchen in San Francisco, and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Los Angeles.  Prior to joining Chase, he was the director of legal writing at the University of California at Davis.