Marine geoengineering

Guidance and Amendments under the London Convention/Protocol

Since 2007, having decided that the scope of work of the LC and LP included ocean fertilization, the Contracting Parties have been working to establish, a global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanism for ocean fertilization activities and other activities that fall within the scope of the LC and LP and have the potential to cause harm to the marine environment. In 2010, Parties adopted Resolution LC-LP.2(2010) on the “Assessment Framework for Scientific Research Involving Ocean Fertilization” which guides Parties on how to assess proposals for ocean fertilization research and provides detailed steps for completion of an environmental assessment, including risk management and monitoring.

In 2013, the Contracting Parties adopted resolution LP.4(8), thereby amending the Protocol to include marine geoengineering engineering activities.

The amendments, adopted on 18 October 2013 by the Protocol Parties, add a new article 6bis which states that "Contracting Parties shall not allow the placement of matter into the sea from vessels, aircraft, platforms or other man-made structures at sea for marine geoengineering activities listed in Annex 4, unless the listing provides that the activity or the sub-category of an activity may be authorized under a permit".

Marine geoengineering is defined as "a deliberate intervention in the marine environment to manipulate natural processes, including to counteract anthropogenic climate change and/or its impacts, and that has the potential to result in deleterious effects, especially where those effects may be widespread, long-lasting or severe".

A new Annex 4 on "Marine geoengineering" lists "Ocean fertilization", defined as "any activity undertaken by humans with the principal intention of stimulating primary productivity in the oceans.  Ocean fertilization does not include conventional aquaculture, or mariculture, or the creation of artificial reefs. " The Annex provides that all ocean fertilization activities other than those referred to above shall not be permitted. An ocean fertilization activity may only be considered for a permit if it is assessed as constituting legitimate scientific research taking into account any specific placement assessment framework.

A new Annex 5 adds the Assessment Framework for matter that may be considered for placement under Annex 4. The Assessment framework provides that Contracting Parties should consider any advice on proposals for activities listed from independent international experts or an independent international advisory group of experts. An arrangement of such experts in the consultation process has been adopted by the governing bodies in 2014 as annex 4 of document LC 36/16. 

The full press release on the amendment can be found here.

Science Day 2015 

The Science Day symposium under the Scientific Groups meetings of London Convention/Protocol is hosted annually and provides a forum for scientists to share views on designated topics related to the remit of London Convention/Protocol. Contracting States and interested parties may use it as a resourceful tool to make informed decisions. 

The 2015 Science Day session was centered on "Marine geoengineering", and scientists from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and United Kingdom delivered ten presentations on this topic. You can download a report of the proceedings of Science Day from the right hand side column of the page. More details of the symposium, including a package of all powerpoints (in pdf format), can be found in the Recent Events menu to the left.