Rennes, France
11-12 October 2018
Western Institute of Law and Europe (IODE) CNRS - Rennes University

Correcting ocean acidification, removing CO2 from the atmosphere, managing 
solar radiation, restoring wetlands or developing agricultural production 
methods that use the functions of the ecosystem to correct the anthropogenic 
impact on the environment; all of these projects can be brought together under 
the umbrella term of "geoengineering". Also known as environmental engineering, 
it deals with intentional modifications of the environment by techniques and/or 
practices, implemented or planned, to rectify the impact on the environment 
caused by human activities. It is effectively a matter of "manipulating" the 
environment to counter the impact on nature of human interference. The two main 
target areas are the climate and ecosystems.

This new and very controversial approach is a vehicle for a number of issues 
concerning values and representations. Does engineering allow us to forget our 
environmental protection efforts? In addition to the scientific controversy on 
this point, geoengineering raises some major societal issues, questioning the 
human/nature relationship and providing a long-term structure for society's 
approach to the risk. The economic issues of geoengineering at stake also 
merits consideration. At the crossroads of the sciences, technology, and 
ethics, the role of the law in regard to these matters needs to be considered. 
There is an abundance of legal doctrine on similar and corollary objects and 
concepts, such as the prevention, adaptation, rehabilitation, repair of and 
compensation for the harmful impact on the climate and the environment. 
Nevertheless, the legal rules only indirectly cover this new phenomenon, which 
is characterised by a corrective rather than preventive (upstream) or adaptive 
(downstream) approach to threats to the environment.

What legal foundations currently allow, prohibit, organise or supervise the 
development of these techniques, mostly little more than ideas or technological 
innovations so far? Some legal provisions in national and international 
instruments are paving the way for this new paradigm, such as the concept of 
"carbon neutrality" or "the capture and storage of CO2 emissions", or the 
growing number of "wetlands restoration" practices. The Environmental 
Modification Convention, formally the Convention on the Prohibition of Military 
or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD 
convention)1 is likely to cover geoengineering for such purposes. In 2008, the 
members of the Internal Maritime Organisation voted for a ban on ocean 
fertilisation in international waters, except for the purpose of "legitimate 
and small-scale scientific research". The Convention on Biological Diversity, 
adopted in 1992, was supplemented in 2010 by an instrument prohibiting the use 
of climate engineering techniques, although it is not binding. More recently, 
the Paris Agreement on climate change adopted in 20152 and the 2016 French Law 
on the protection of biodiversity tacitly attest to the development of this 
geoengineering logic in politics and stakeholder interactions at different 

As well as positive law, the aim of the symposium is to explore the new 
challenges and directions of environmental law facing with geoengineering, 
enhanced by an interdisciplinary approach centred around the human and social 
sciences. At the time of a new environmental shift, the Anthropocene3, the 
growing interest in environmental engineering encourages us to consider the 
purpose of environmental law. Is the law focusing on the planet, humanity or 
both, and how are they combined? What are the preferred approaches, and what 
are their objectives? This raises questions on the function of geoengineering 
and how it relates to the objective of conservation and the objective of 
quality environmental law. Is the legal discipline still essentially 
preventive? Does it encourage a rationale of sanctuary at the interface of 
artificialisation and the management of environmental resources? Will there be 
a place for the current rationale favouring the sequence: prevent, reduce, 
compensate? In regard to geoengineering, is the law's role to define limits to 
these practices and/or to monitor and support the development of these 
techniques? What are the frameworks within which the rules are or can be 
adopted? What accountability mechanisms can be deployed at different levels? 
What planning will be necessary?

The concept of environmental justice is certainly key, bound to the present and 
to future generations. Thinking about geoengineering also leads one to consider 
the legal consequences of this new relationship with the environment in the 
choice of suitable tools, and more generally in the quest for a coherent and 
consistent response, e.g. in regard to the principles of sustainable 
development and environmental integration. In some areas, it could take the 
form of a return to nature (agriculture), while in others it manifests itself 
as a planetary issue (climate change), or even as a local response to be 
adapted to current needs (wetlands restoration). 1 Convention on the 
Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification 
Techniques, signed on 18 May 1977 and entered into force on 5 October 1978. 2 
Art. 4 of the Agreement provides for "a global peaking of emissions as soon as 
possible", implicitly opening the way to geoengineering. 3 Geological 
chronology term suggested to characterise that period of the Earth's history 
which began when human activity had a significant global impact on the Earth's 

The time-related foundations of the law are also questioned: a law of early 
intervention or a law of recovery, a law capable of adapting while offering an 
element of legal predictability? In regard to the principle of legal certainty, 
how can the law be conceived and constructed so that it can evolve in support 
of these technological developments? The spatial foundations appear to be 
characterised by the potential globalisation of the impact of damage to the 
environment and of corrective measures. How can this combination of local and 
global levels shape the governance options for ecological and climate 
engineering? And how can the techniques and knowledge concerning tools be 
combined? In view of these manipulations of nature, how can we combine our 
professional and scientific knowledge with indigenous, local and empirical 
knowledge? How can geoengineering be reconciled with the environmental ethics 
of the indigenous people and local communities? Locally and globally, how are 
these cultures, especially legal cultures, affecting how these technological 
"innovations" are received?

The papers can explore the lines of thinking referred to above or address new 
questions. This call is open to academics from various disciplines and 
backgrounds (French law, comparative law, European law, international law, 
private and public law), as well as to other social and human sciences, and to 
the practitioners (company lawyers, research bodies and NGOs in particular).

Response procedures

Proposed contributions (1 page maximum), accompanied by a short CV, must be in 
electronic format (Word or PDF) in French or English. They should be sent, no 
later than 30 May 2018, to the following address:<>
The proposals will then be sent to the scientific committee for a two-fold 
evaluation. The results will be communicated on 30 June 2018.


The symposium will be held in French and English, without simultaneous 
translation. Travel and accommodation costs are payable by the contributors to 
the symposium. Authors should send their written contributions for publication 
of the acts no later than 1 February 2019.

Dates and place

11-12 October 2018
Faculty of Law and Political Science, Rennes University
9 rue Jean Macé, 35000 Rennes - FRANCE
Dr. Jesse Reynolds | Assistant Professor and Research Funding Coordinator | 
Institute for Jurisprudence, Constitutional and Administrative Law | Utrecht 
Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law | Faculty of Law, Economics and 
Governance | Utrecht University | Newtonlaan 201 | 3584 BH Utrecht | The 
Netherlands | +31 (0) 30 253 7637 |<> |<> |<>

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