15 oct 2019

A new IMO resolution will allow projects for subsea CO2 sequestration to be shared across national boundaries

Parties to the London Protocol agreed last week that trans-boundary export of carbon dioxide (CO2) for the purpose of carbon capture and storage (CCS or sequestration) can now be provisionally allowed under certain circumstances. Since 2006, the London Protocol has provided the basis in international environmental law for Governments to allow CCS under the seabed when it is safe to do so, and to regulate the injection of CO2 waste streams into sub-seabed geological formations for permanent isolation.

“The adoption of the resolution will remove a barrier for countries who wish to make use of carbon capture and storage – but which do not have ready access to offshore storage sites within their national boundaries,” said Fredrik Haag, Head, Office for the London Convention and Protocol and Ocean Affairs at the IMO. “An important point to note is that reduction of CO2 emissions at source should be the primary focus, and provisional application of the amendment should not be seen as a substitute for other measures to reduce CO2 emissions. Carbon sequestration can be considered as one of a portfolio of options to reduce levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and can be an important interim solution in the fight against climate change.”

What is the London Protocol?

The London Protocol provides a framework for Parties to effectively prevent pollution of the sea caused by dumping or incineration at sea of wastes and other matter, and by activities including carbon capture and storage in sub-seabed geological formations and marine geoengineering activities, such as ocean fertilization. The London Protocol takes a precautionary approach and prohibits all dumping of wastes at sea, except for those on a list of wastes that may be considered. However, any wastes on the list must be assessed and given a permit before being dumped at sea.

The London Protocol was adopted in 1996, to modernize and eventually replace its forerunner, the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (London Convention).

The London Protocol is one of the key pillars of marine environment protection together with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and Regional Seas Conventions. The objectives of the LP include protecting and preserving the marine environment from all sources of pollution.


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