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Tuesday, October 15, 2019 

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) says that transboundary export of carbon dioxide (CO2) for the purpose of carbon capture and storage sequestration) can now be provisionally allowed under certain circumstances.

The move was agreed by the various parties to the London Protocol, which provides a basis in international environmental law to allow carbon capture and storage (CCS) under the seabed - which is recognised as one tool in climate change mitigation, whilst ensuring protection of the marine environment.

A 2009 amendment 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). The latest resolution allows provisional application of the 2009 amendment as an interim solution, pending sufficient acceptance by Contracting Parties, enabling 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."

The London Protocol is one of the key pillars of marine environment protection together with MARPOL, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and Regional Seas Conventions, which include protecting and preserving the marine environment from all sources of pollution.

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