Iron fertilization limited to “scientific research”

The London Convention Treaty, which limits pollution in international waters, has agreed to limit iron fertilization experiments to “legitimate scientific research.” Commercial operations that sell carbon credits will not be allowed. The delegates will *ahem* iron out the details out in May.

Ah, Planktos. We hardly knew – actually, we knew ye quite well enough.

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3 Responses to Iron fertilization limited to “scientific research”

  1. Karen James says:

    Not having a subscription to Science myself (no, not even an institutional subscription and it’s not like my institution is small… but I digress), all I can see is the title “Rules for Ocean Fertilization Could Repel Companies” and the free summary which pretty much says the same.

    Though I celebrate anything that might curb the ambitions of those act-now-worry-later folks at Planktos, I think we’ve got to be vigilant. I mean, Japan slaughters tens of thousands of whales every year for ‘legiticmate scientific resaerch’, what’s stopping Planktos from playing from the same twisted rule book?

  2. I suspect it will be easier to control companies like Planktos because they are companies and not sovereign nations. Japan doesn’t have to care what other countries think, because they use the whale meat internally and because they know perfectly well that no country cares about whales enough to really escalate the issue.

    In contrast, Planktos need to sell their product – carbon credits – to citizens of the countries who have signed the treaties. Who wants illegal unsustainable carbon credits? This is not to say that the treaty will stop all unauthorized iron dumping forever, but it does make it a lot harder for commercial companies to make a profit.

  3. Hao Ye says:

    What impeccable timing: I’m writing a paper for ocean law and policy class that discusses the very issue of the legality of iron fertilization for carbon offset markets.

    The London Convention (1972) is nice, but the more restrictive update (London Protocol 1996) has only been adopted by 36 countries. The US has not officially adopted the London Protocol (ostensibly to maintain sovereignty), but has its own version which has much of the same regulations. Planktos actually reflagged their vessel from the US to some other country (unknown) to get around the US restrictions, but I never actually found out what happened with that. (maybe their funding dried up before they really got started)

    The law was previously more murky: London Protocol says no dumping, but the UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) endorses the development of the ocean for carbon sequestration: which could arguable include iron fertilization.

    Unfortunately, international law isn’t enforced that well (e.g. fisheries), but certainly it’s a lot easier to flag a vessel in a random country in order to fish patagonian toothfish than it is to do the same in order to sell carbon offset credits through iron fertilization.

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