Carbon Capture and Storage
The OSPAR Commission took decisive action towards reducing the negative effects of climate change at the 2007 Commission meeting in Ostend by adopting amendments to the Annexes to the Convention to allow the storage of carbon dioxide in geological formations under the seabed. This followed publications by OSPAR in 2006 of a report on ocean acidification, which indicated that high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are changing ocean carbon chemistry at least 100 times faster than at any time in the last 100 000 years, and a detailed consideration of technical aspects of CO2 capture and storage (CCS) in geological formations under the seabed. In association with the amendments to the Convention, OSPAR has adopted a Decision to ensure environmentally safe storage of carbon dioxide streams in geological formations and OSPAR Guidelines for Risk Assessment and Management of that activity. The Commission has also adopted a Decision to legally rule out placement of CO2 into the water-column of the sea and on the seabed, because of the potential negative effects.
These important developments build on work started in 2002 and follow intensive workshops held during 2006/07 on both the legal and technical/environmental considerations associated with CCS, which was led by the Netherlands, Norway and the UK. Detailed proposals were considered at length by both the Offshore Industries Committee (OIC 2007) and the Biodiversity Committee (BDC 2007) and received advice from OSPAR Commission's Jurists and Linguists (JL).
The OSPAR Commission recognises CCS as one important pragmatic approach in the portfolio of measures to tackle the challenges of climate change and acidification. The OSPAR Commission also acknowledges the role of CO2 as the principal forcing component for climate change. Where very long-term storage is achievable, CCS may complement measures to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions at source.
However, OSPAR has also stressed that CCS is only part of a package of measures needed to reduce CO2 emissions, that should include conservation of energy (demand restraint), renewables and improved energy efficiency. Detailed discussion has mirrored that within the London Convention on the need to minimise the risk of leakage over the very long timescales envisaged. As a Regional Seas Convention, the OSPAR Commission is contributing to international efforts within the EU and global efforts under the London Protocol.