Intentional ocean fertilisation and the commercial sale of associated carbon offsets raise a number of issues in international law. On the one hand states are obliged to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures to prevent dangerous climate change. On the other hand, international law obliges states to protect and preserve the marine environment and to act in a precautionary manner in the face of scientific uncertainty. This article examines the application of the international law of the sea to ocean fertilisation, with particular reference to the dumping regime which prohibits the dumping of wastes or other materials from vessels into the ocean. It then examines the application of the international legal regime on climate change to ocean fertilisation and assesses the international legal basis for the sale of carbon offsets or carbon credits associated with ocean fertilisation. It concludes that ocean fertilisation is governed by the dumping regime and that its commercialisation is inconsistent with international law unless and until independent, internationally peer-reviewed scientific research and assessment demonstrates that it is effective and that its benefits outweigh the risks to the marine environment.
Environmental Law | International Law
Date of this Version
David Freestone and Rosemary Rayfuse, "Iron Ocean Fertilization and International Law" (May 2008). University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series 2008. Working Paper 37.