Scientific Groups cautious over iron
fertilization of the oceans to sequester CO2


Scientific Groups to the Contracting Parties under the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (London Convention) and the 1996 Protocol thereto (London Protocol): 30th session - 18 - 22 June 2007

Scientific advisers to Parties to the international treaties, which regulate the dumping of wastes and other matter at sea, have advised caution in relation to planned large-scale iron fertilization of the oceans to sequester carbon dioxide (CO2).

Knowledge about the effectiveness and potential environmental impact of iron fertilization is currently insufficient to justify large-scale operations, according to the Scientific Groups advising the Contracting Parties to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (London Convention) and the 1996 Protocol thereto (London Protocol), which met for their annual meeting from 18 to 22 June 2007, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

The Scientific Groups discussed several submissions relating to iron fertilization of the oceans to sequester CO2, as part of their agenda, and issued the following statement:

"Large-scale fertilization of ocean waters using micro-nutrients such as iron to stimulate phytoplankton growth in order to sequester carbon dioxide is the subject of recent commercial interest. The Scientific Groups of the London Convention and the London Protocol take the view that knowledge about the effectiveness and potential environmental impacts of ocean iron fertilization currently is insufficient to justify large-scale operations.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), iron fertilization of the oceans may offer a potential strategy for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by stimulating the growth of phytoplankton and thereby sequestering the carbon dioxide in the form of particulate organic carbon. However, the IPCC also stated that ocean iron fertilization remains largely speculative, and many of the environmental side effects have yet to be assessed.

The Scientific Groups of the London Convention and London Protocol note with concern the potential for large-scale ocean iron fertilization to have negative impacts on the marine environment and human health. They therefore recommend that any such operations be evaluated carefully to ensure, among other things, that such operations are not contrary to the aims of the London Convention and London Protocol."

Parties to the London Convention and the London Protocol are invited to provide further information relating to proposed large-scale ocean iron fertilization operations to the Secretariat and to the Scientific Groups as and when such information becomes available.

The Scientific Groups will report to the 29th Consultative Meeting of Contracting Parties to the London Convention and the 2nd Meeting of Contracting Parties to the London Protocol, which are scheduled to meet concurrently from 5 to 9 November 2007 in London.

The London Convention was one of the first global conventions to protect the marine environment from human activities and has been in force since 1975. Its objective is to promote the effective control of all sources of marine pollution and to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of wastes and other matter. The 1972 Convention permits dumping of wastes at sea, except for those materials on a banned list. Currently, 81 States are Parties to this Convention.

In 1996, the "London Protocol" was adopted, to further modernize the Convention and, eventually, replace it. Under the Protocol, the precautionary approach is applied and all dumping is prohibited, except for possibly acceptable wastes on the so-called "reverse list". The Protocol entered into force on 24 March 2006 and there are currently 31 Parties to it.

Both the Convention and Protocol require Parties to issue permits for the dumping of wastes and other matter at sea.

Further information on the London Convention and Protocol can be found at http://www.londonconvention.org

 

For further information please contact:
Lee Adamson, Head, Public Information Services on 020 7587 3153 (media@imo.org) or
Natasha Brown, External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3274 (media@imo.org).