--> A Preliminary Framework for Understanding the Governance of Novel Environmental Technologies: Ambiguity, Indeterminateness and Drift – Jesse Reynolds / international & technology environmental policy
with Sikina Jinnah, Florian Rabitz, Marian Feist, Matthias Honegger, and Joshua Horton
12 Earth System Governance 100134
Publication year: 2022

We propose a conceptual framework to explain why some technologies are more difficult to govern than others in global environmental governance. We start from the observation that some technologies pose transboundary environmental risks, some provide capacities for managing such risks, and some do both. For “ambiguous” technologies, potential risks and risk management capacities are uncertain, unknown or even unknowable. Governance systems are indeterminate towards ambiguous technologies, as existing norms, rules, scripts and routines do not imply default solutions under institutional focal points. Indeterminateness can lead to institutional drift, with risks accordingly remaining unmitigated and risk management capacities remaining unexploited. We use the cases of solar geoengineering, gene drive systems and bioinformatics for illustrating this framework. As technological ambiguity may often be irresolvable, we conclude that it might force us to confront the limits to anticipatory global decision-making on matters of long-term environmental sustainability.