In the ensuing years after the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, it has become increasingly obvious that achievement of its temperature objectives will require both aggressive emissions reductions initiatives and large-scale deployment of carbon dioxide removal/negative emissions technologies to either avoid passing critical climatic thresholds. While much of the early research of carbon dioxide removal/NETs options, as well as their incorporation into NDCs, focused on terrestrial approaches, there has been increasing attention to the potential role of the world’s oceans given both sustainability considerations and the fact that oceans already serve as a huge carbon sink, with great additional potential for storing carbon. Ocean-based carbon dioxide removal approaches include enhanced ocean alkalinization, ocean fertilization, ocean upwelling and downwelling, and “blue carbon” options, which may enhance storage of carbon in coastal and ocean ecosystems, such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses.***
However, beyond the imposing scientific and technological questions that abound in this nascent field are serious questions of governance, both on the axes of research and potential deployment. Indeed, many of the approaches that fall under the rubric of ocean-based CDR/NETs pose serious issues in terms of how we govern the global commons and reconcile the interests of various coastal States within their respective Exclusive Economic Zones. Moreover, many of these options could yield important co-benefits for some stakeholders, while potentially negative impacting others, emphasizing the critical role of public engagement mechanisms.
The focus of the conference will be on law and policy issues associated with ocean-based CDR/NETs approaches, including, but not limited to the following issues: