I was asked to come to speak to this gathering, and I'm very honored to do so. Ocean fertilization for carbon sequestration is a very interesting problem, and one that concerns me. I'm not an academic expert on the topic, but understand the legal and policy implications, even though I am a scientist not a lawyer. Anyway, these are some of the thoughts I've put together, based on my own experience.

I'd like to touch on the Kyoto Accord--if it's still okay to talk about it in Washington (!)-- followed by the London Convention, previously known as the London Dumping Convention; then the U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea; and ending with some conclusions.

imageWhat I'm offering is a brief overview of the possible international context in which actions on artificial fertilization of the oceans could develop. It is not an attempt to look in detail at the relevant legal articles and it's certainly not a discussion of the scientific validity of enhancing the productivity of the ocean.

imageThe Kyoto Accord allows for contracting parties to implement and further elaborate policies and measures in accordance with their national circumstances, and including their obligations under environmental conventions. So one would think that the enrichment of the ocean under this scenario is a valid consideration. The Accord also allows for research, development, and increased use of carbon dioxide sequestration technologies.

imageAccepting that the concept of ocean fertilization to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide is valid, who controls what is happening, and who gets any potential carbon credits? Can any government undertake actions on its own? The answer to these questions are not black and white. There is national versus the international control. The Accord also instructs governments to share their experience and exchange information on any measures that they undertake. Perhaps the Accord would cover measures that are internal to government waters.


For example, scientists have conducted whole-lake fertilization experiments in the Canadian Experimental Lake Area which are totally inside Canada's national boundaries. But what about in the open ocean? The open ocean doesn't belong to anyone; rather it belongs to everyone. The question is: Can individuals go ahead and do experiments without consultation of other governments? And if you have to have consultation, exactly how much consultation is required?

Article 6 of the Kyoto Accord addresses the transfer of emission reduction units and may be relevant to this discussion. It says that in order to meet commitments, a government may transfer to or acquire from other such parties emission reduction units. If those reduction units are obtained at the expense of the common property of the open oceans, to whom do the benefits belong? Article 6 does not directly address that concern, but says that any such project must have the approval of all the parties concerned.

In the open ocean, of course, all governments interested parties because it's common property. The Accord says that the parties shall consider ways or means to coordinate such policies or measures. So if one country decides to go ahead and conduct experiments, those measures have to be coordinated among countries. Put another way, other countries have to be considered, consulted, and approvals have to be obtained.

imageA further consideration is monitoring. Any removal of atmospheric CO2 by fertilization must be reported in a transparent and verifiable manner. But who pays for the monitoring? Who audits whether the monitoring is sufficient? The Kyoto Accord states that the methodologies for estimating those removals must be accepted by the IPCC. Therefore, every time you consider unilateral action there seems to be many Articles within the Accord saying that countries must work together; that decisions on the science of monitoring takes place in consultation and that countries have to work together to determine the distribution of benefits.

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