London Protocol to allow transboundary CO2 export

Oct 15 2019

Transboundary export of carbon dioxide for the purpose of carbon capture and storage can now be provisionally allowed under certain circumstances, Parties to the London Protocol have agreed.

The London Protocol provides the basis in international environmental law for Governments to allow carbon capture and storage under the seabed - which is recognized as one tool in climate change mitigation, whilst ensuring protection of the marine environment.

London Protocol Parties, meeting in London for their annual meeting with Parties to the London Convention (7-11 October), adopted a resolution to allow provisional application of an amendment to article 6 of the Protocol to allow sub-seabed geological formations for sequestration projects to be shared across national boundaries.

The London Protocol has, since 2006 provided a basis in international environmental law to allow CO2 storage beneath 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 2009 amendment adopted by Parties to the London Protocol allows for sub-seabed geological formations for sequestration projects to be shared across national boundaries – effectively allowing CO2 streams to be exported for CCS purposes (provided that the protection standards of all other London Protocol requirements have been met). However, the 2009 amendment has yet to enter into force.

The resolution to allow provisional application of the 2009 amendment as an interim solution, pending sufficient acceptance by Contracting Parties, enables countries who wish to do so, to implement the provisions of the amendment in advance of entry into force. To do this, the Parties concerned will need to deposit a declaration of provisional application and provide notification of any agreements or arrangements with the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

"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, 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."

The Zero Emissions Platform developed a position paper in support of this amendment.

London Protocol
ZEP London Protocol position paper

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