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
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,
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
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
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