Australia, Nigeria, and South Korea have jointly proposed amendments to the London Protocol (LP) that would formally extend the instrument's remit beyond ocean fertilization to include other possible forms of marine geoengineering (such as enhanced weathering or ocean liming). The proposal defines "marine geoengineering" broadly as "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 for widespread, long-lasting or severe effects." A new annex to the Protocol would serve as a "positive list" specifying particular geoengineering techniques to be regulated under the LP; techniques not included on this list would remain subject to the regime's general prohibition on dumping of materials at sea. The only activity listed in the proposed annex is ocean fertilization, which would continue to be permitted only in cases of "legitimate scientific research." The proposal also includes a generic assessment framework (modeled on the existing Assessment Framework for ocean fertilization--see LC/LP Agrees on Ocean Fertilization Assessment Framework, 10/19/10) intended to serve as the basis for more specific frameworks used to arrive at permitting decisions for other geoengineering approaches added to the annex in the future.
In essence, this proposal establishes a procedural mechanism for regulating any geoengineering technique involving the introduction of materials to the sea, based on processes previously developed to address ocean fertilization. Since the proposal takes the form of amendments to the London Protocol, if it is adopted, regulations covering ocean fertilization and other technologies would be legally binding rather than voluntary, as is currently the case with respect to operative resolutions on ocean fertilization. Parties to the LC/LP will take up the proposal at a meeting this October.