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Abstract

Geo-engineering and environmental modification techniques are increasingly being proposed as climate change mitigation strategies. Ocean fertilisation has been promoted as a simple solution to the problem of increasing atmospheric CO2 levels. However, neither its environmental safety nor its efficacy has been adequately assessed. This article examines the legality of ocean fertilisation under the law of the sea and concludes that it is subject to regulation under the London Convention and London Protocol as its potential for harm is contrary to the aims of these agreements. Hence, the sale of carbon offsets to fund ocean fertilisation activities should be prohibited unless and until an adequate risk assessment based on independent peer-reviewed science has established that the benefits outweigh the potential for harm, and appropriate regulation is in place to ensure that real, measurable, long-term CO2 sequestration can be independently verified. The initial uncertainties surrounding the appropriate regulatory regime for ocean fertilisation highlight the need for a comprehensive global regime for the prior assessment and on-going monitoring of existing, new and emerging high seas activities and uses to ensure they do not have adverse impacts on marine biodiversity and the marine environment in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

In: The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law

Some have proposed that climate-engineering methods could be developed to offset climate change. However, whilst some of these methods, in particular a form of solar-radiation management referred to as stratospheric aerosol injection (sai), could potentially reduce the overall degree of global warming as well as some associated risks, they are also likely to redistribute some environmental risks globally. Moreover, they could give rise to new risks, raising the issue of legal responsibility for transboundary harm caused. This article examines the question of international accountability of states for an increased risk of environmental harm arising from a large-scale climate intervention using sai, and the legal consequences that would follow. Examination of the applicability of customary rules on state responsibility to sai are useful for understanding the limitations of the existing accountability framework for climate engineering, particularly in the context of global environmental problems involving risk-risk trade-offs and large uncertainties.

In: Climate Law