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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 September 2015

Chiara Armeni
Research Associate, University College London, Faculty of Laws,
E-mail address:


Global experimentalist governance has emerged within and across a number of international regulatory regimes, but its potential contribution to the global governance of climate change remains largely unexplored. This article investigates the opportunities and barriers to developing global experimentalist governance approaches in the international regulation of climate change technologies, focusing on the recent framework for marine geoengineering under the London Dumping Protocol. It argues that, in the face of the limits of international law in dealing with uncertainty, multilevel distribution of power and regulatory disconnection, global experimentalist governance is attractive to catalyse adaptability, iterative learning, participation and cooperation. Such approach can help rethink the way international law deals with technological development, by emphasizing its problem-solving function.

Copyright © British Institute of International and Comparative Law 2015 

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47 de Búrca, Keohane and Sabel (n 20) 17.

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57 Royal Society (n 7).

58 see IMO, Report of the First Meeting of the Intersessional Technical Working Group on Ocean Fertilization (LC/SG-CO2 3/5), 16 February 2009.

59 Royal Society (n 7).

60 ibid xii.


61 Humphreys, D, ‘Smoke and Mirrors: Some Reflections on the Science and Politics of Geoengineering’ (2011) 20(2) The Journal of Environment & Development 99CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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63 Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘Geoengineering in Relation to the Convention on Biological Diversity: Technical and Regulatory Matters, Montreal, Technical Series No 66 (2012) 74.

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66 A Robock, et al (n 64).

67 IPCC, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis - Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - Summary for Policymakers (CUP 2013) 27.

68 ibid.


69 ibid. See also Royal Society (n 7) 38.


70 N Pidgeon and A Corner, ‘Geoengineering the Climate: the Social and Ethical Implications’ (2010) 52(1) Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 24.

71 SM Gardiner, ‘Is “Arming the Future” with Geoengineering Really the Lesser Evil? Some Doubts about the Ethics of Intentionally Manipulating the Climate System’ in S Gardiner et al. (eds), Climate Ethics: Essential Readings (OUP 2010) 284.

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73 Pidgeon and Corner (n 70).

74 D Collingridge, The Social Control of Technology (Bloomsbury Publishing 1982).

75 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP Decision IX/16 (2008) C para 4; CBD COP Decision X/33 (2010) para 8(w). These decisions were endorsed in IMO Resolution LC/LP. 1 (2008) on the Regulation of Ocean Fertilization, 31 October 2008. See also EA Parson and D Keith, ‘End the Deadlock on Governance of Geoengineering Research’ Science (13 March 2013) 339; S Rayner et al., Memorandum on draft principles for the conduct of geoengineering research. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Enquiry into the Regulation of Geoengineering (2009).

76 DG Victor, Global Warming Gridlock – Creating More Effective Strategies for Protecting the Planet (CUP 2011) 193.

77 See the ‘quarrel’ between Lobel and Karkkainen on new governance and the role of law. Lobel, O, ‘The Renew Deal: The Fall of Regulation and the Rise of Governance in Contemporary Legal Thought’ (2004) 89 MinnLRev 324Google Scholar; BC Karkkainen (n 48); Lobel, O, ‘Setting the Agenda for New Governance Research: Surreply’ (2004) 89 MinnLRev 498Google Scholar.

78 de Búrca and Scott (n 19) 4–10.

79 de Búrca, Keohane and Sabel (n 20); Cohen, J and Sabel, C, ‘Directly-Deliberative Polyarchy’ (1997) 3(4) ELJ 313CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

80 ‘Encapsulation’ refers to whether the method is modular and contained, such as is the case with air capture and space reflectors, or whether it involves material released into the wider environment, as is the case with sulphate aerosols or ocean fertilization (Royal Society (n 7) 38).

81 Parson, EA, ‘Climate Engineering in Global Climate Governance: Implications for Participation and Linkages’ (2014) 3(1) TEL 89CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 95.

82 See, in general, N de Sadeleer, Environmental Principles: From Slogans to Legal Rules (OUP 2002).

83 For a comprehensive analysis of the customary international law principles applicable to geoengineering, Scott, KN, ‘International Law in the Anthropocene: Responding to the Geoengineering Challenge (2013) 34 MichJIntlL 309Google Scholar.

84 1972 Declaration of the UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm) UN Doc A/CONF/48/14 Rev.1, Principle 21; 1992 Declaration of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro) UN Doc A/CONF.151/26/Rev.1, Report of the UNCED, Vol 1 (New York), Principle 2.

85 eg Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, UNGA Res 3281, UN GAOR, 29th Sess Supp No 31, UN Doc A/9631 (1974) 50, art 30; International Law Commission, ‘International Liability for Injurious Consequences Arising out of Acts Not Prohibited by International Law (Prevention of Transboundary Harm from Hazardous Activities)’ in ILC, ‘Report of the International Law Commission to the General Assembly covering the work of its fifty-third session, with commentaries, 2001’ (UN Doc A/56/10), Ch V, in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 2001, Vol II, Pt Two (UN 2001) (‘Draft Articles on Prevention’).

86 See Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion, [1996] ICJ Rep 226 (Legality of Nuclear Weapons) para 29 (stating that this obligation is ‘now part of the corpus of international law relating to the environment); Case concerning Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina v Uruguay) [2010] ICJ Rep 14 (Pulp Mills) para 101.

87 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay) 21 ILM (1982) 1261. In force 16 November 1994 (‘LOSC’) arts 192–195; Convention on Biological Diversity (Rio de Janeiro) 31 ILM (1992) (‘CBD’) art 3.

88 See C Armeni and C Redgwell, ‘International Legal and Regulatory Issues of Climate Geoengineering Governance: Rethinking the Approach’ (2015) Climate Geoengineering Governance Working Paper No 21/2015 <>.

89 Pulp Mills (n 86) para 204. This obligation can also be also found in the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo) 30 ILM (1991) 801. In force 27 June 1997 art 2(1).

90 ibid para 205.


91 Draft Articles on Prevention (n 85) Commentary to art 7.

92 Pulp Mills (n 86) para 197 (defining the obligation of due diligence as entailing ‘the adoption of appropriate rules and measures, but also a certain level of vigilance in their enforcement and the exercise of administrative control applicable to public and private operators, such as the monitoring of activities undertaken by such operators, to safeguard the rights of the other party.’)

93 Armeni and Redgwell (n 88) 37.

94 eg Redgwell (n 10); Scott (n 83); Reynolds, J, ‘The Regulation of Climate Engineering’ (2011) 3 Law, Innovation and Technology 113CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kuokkanen, T and Yamineva, Y, ‘Regulating Geoengineering in International Environmental Law’ (2013) 3 CCLR 161Google Scholar. See also: Reynolds, J and Fleurke, F, ‘Climate Engineering Research: A Precautionary Response to Climate Change?’ (2013) 2 CCLR 108Google Scholar; Tedsen, E and Homann, GImplementing the Precautionary Principle for Climate Engineering’ (2013) 2 CCLR 90Google Scholar.

95 Armeni and Redgwell (n 88). cf J Reynolds, ‘Climate Engineering Field Research: The Favorable Setting of International Environmental Law’ (2014) 5(2) Washington and Lee Journal of Energy, Climate, and the Environment 417 (stating that existing international treaties would enable geoengineering research).

96 PG Harris, ‘Reconceptualising Global Governance’ in JS Dryzek, RB Norgaard and D Schlosberg (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society (OUP 2012) 639 (making a similar point related to global climate governance).

97 For a discussion of this issue in the regulation of other technologies, see eg F Francioni and T Scovazzi (eds), Biotechnology and International Law (Hart Publishing, 2006); GE Marchant, BR Allenby and R Herkert (eds), The Growing Gap between Emerging Technologies and Legal-Ethical Oversight: The Pacing Problem (Springer 2011).

98 As examples of specific adjustment mechanisms, see: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (Cartagena) 39 ILM (2000). In force 11 September 2003; ECE, Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in the Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (‘Aarhus Convention’), Decision II/1 Genetically Modified Organisms (adopted at the second meeting of the Parties held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, 25–27 May 2005).

99 Reynolds, J, ‘The International Regulation of Climate Engineering: Lessons from Nuclear Power’ (2014) 26(2) JEL 269CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Long, JSC, ‘A Prognosis, and Perhaps a Plan, for Geoengineering Governance’ (2013) 3 CCLR 177Google Scholar; Hester, T, ‘A Matter of Scale: Regional Climate Engineering and the Shortfalls of Multinational Governance’ (2013) 3 CCLR 168Google Scholar.

100 Cottrell and Trubek (n 4) 1.

101 D Bodansky, ‘Governing Climate Engineering: Scenarios for Analysis’ (November 2011) The Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Discussion Paper 2011/47, 19–20 <>.

102 eg Rayfuse, NR, Lawrence, M and Gjerde, K, ‘Ocean Fertilization and Climate Change: The Need to Regulate Emerging High Seas Uses’ (2008) 23(2) International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 297CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Rayfuse, R and Freestone, D, ‘Ocean Iron Fertilization and International Law’ (2008) 364 Marine Ecology Progress Series 277Google Scholar; Markus, T and Ginzky, H, ‘Regulating Climate Engineering: Paradigmatic Aspects of the Regulation of Ocean Fertilization’ (2011) 4 CCLR 477Google Scholar; R Rayfuse and R Warner, ‘Climate Change Mitigation Activities in the Ocean: Turning up the Regulatory Heat’ in R Warner and C Schofield (eds), Climate Change and The Oceans: Gauging the Legal and Policy Currents in the Asia Pacific and Beyond (Edward Elgar Publishing 2012), Scott, KN, ‘Regulating Ocean Fertilization under International Law: The Risk’ (2013) 2 CCLR 108Google Scholar.

103 Rayfuse, R, ‘Drowning Our Sorrows to Create a Carbon Free Future? Some International Legal Considerations Relating to Sequestering Carbon by Fertilizing the Oceans’ (2008) 14(2) UNSWLJ Forum 54Google Scholar. Craik, N, Blackstock, J and Hubert, AM, ‘Regulating Geoengineering Research through Domestic Environmental Protection Frameworks: Reflections on the Recent Canadian Ocean Fertilization Case’ (2013) 2 CCLR 117Google Scholar.

104 The amendment will enter into force for those Parties which have accepted it on the 60th day after two-thirds of the Parties that have deposited their instrument of acceptance with the International Maritime Organization (art 21(3)). (The US is not a Party to the Protocol.)

105 LC, arts I and II and LP, art 2.

106 LC, art III(1)(b)(ii) and LP, art Under the London Protocol, dumping also includes ‘any storage of wastes or other matter in the seabed and the subsoil thereof from vessels, aircraft and platforms or other man-made statures at sea and any abandoned or toppling at side of platforms or other man-made structures at sea for the sole purpose of deliberate disposal’. (London Protocol, art 1 (4(3) and (4)).

107 London Protocol, art 3.

108 IMO, Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter at Sea, 1972 and its 1996 Protocol, Statement of Concern Regarding Iron Fertilization of the Oceans to Sequester CO2 (LC-LP.1/Circ 14, 13 July 2007).

109 CBD COP Decision IX/16 (2008); CBD COP Decision X/33 (2010).

110 IMO (n 75) para 8.

111 ibid para 3.


112 ibid para 4 and 7.


113 ibid para 8.


114 IMO, Resolution LC-LP. 2(2010) on the Assessment Framework for Scientific Research involving Ocean Fertilization, 14 October 2010.

115 IMO (n 114) para 7.

116 IMO, Resolution LP. 4(8) on the Amendment to the London Protocol to Regulate the Placement of Matter for Ocean Fertilization and Other Marine Geoengineering Activities, 18 October 2013.

117 36th Consultative Meeting of Contracting Parties (London Convention 1972) and 9th Meeting of Contracting Parties (London Protocol 1996), Opening address, 3 November 2014, delivered on behalf of the IMO Secretary-General by Mr Andy Winbow, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Maritime Safety Division).

118 London Protocol, new art 1.5bis. The language in relation to ‘widespread, long-lasting and severe’ effects is borrowed from the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD), New York 18 May 1977, in force 5 October 1978, 1108 UNTS 151. The Convention does not define these terms, but the Understandings attached to it provide the following interpretation: ‘a. “widespread”: encompassing an area on the scale of several hundred square kilometers; b. “long-lasting”: lasting for a period of months, or approximately a season; c. “severe”: involving serious or significant disruption or harm to human life, natural and economic resources or other assets'. See Understandings Relating to art I of ENMOD, 31 GAOR Supp No (A/31/27), Annex I para 5.

119 IMO (n 116) new art 6bis ‘Marine Geoengineering Activities’.

120 ibid, new Annex 4 ‘Marine Geoengineering Activities’ para 1(3) Para 1(1) defines ocean fertilization as ‘any activity undertaken by humans with the principal intention of stimulating primary productivity in the oceans’. This definition expressly excludes other established legitimate uses of the sea, such as the direct harvesting of marine organisms; conventional aquaculture or mariculture; the creation of artificial reefs (para 1.2).


121 ibid, new Annex 5 ‘Assessment Framework for Matters that Might be Considered for Placement under Annex 4’.


122 ibid, para 2.


123 IMO, Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter at Sea, 1972 and its 1996 Protocol, Guidance for Consideration of Marine Geoengineering Activities (LC-LP.1/Circ.67, 6 January 2015) Annex, para 2.

124 IMO, Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter at Sea, 1972 and its 1996 Protocol, Description of Arrangements for a Roster of Experts on Marine Geoengineering in the Consultation Process (with regard to para 12 of Annex 5 to the London Protocol) (LC-LP. 1/Circ. 66, 6 January 2015). (Parties can also consult experts outside the roster.)

125 UK Explanatory Memorandum on the Amendments to the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (London Protocol) to Regulate Marine Geoengineering (Command Paper No 8965) (2014) <>. For a detailed analysis of the UK position on geoengineering, C Armeni and C Redgwell, ‘Geoengineering Under National Law: A Case Study of the United Kingdom (2015) Climate Geoengineering Governance Working Paper No 23/2015 <>.

126 See UK Explanatory Memorandum (n 125).

127 IMO (n 116) new Annex 5.

128 H Ginzky and R Frost, ‘Marine Geo-Engineering: Legally Binding Regulation under the London Protocol’ (2014) 2 CCLR 82.

129 Certainly Parties will always be able to prohibit previously permitted activities through an amending procedure, as it happened with other matters, most notably in 1993 with the adoption of a binding prohibition on dumping of low- and medium-level radioactive wastes under the London Convention Annex. (IMO, Resolution LC. 51 (16) Amendments to the Annexes to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 concerning Disposal at Sea of Radioactive Wastes and Other Radioactive Matter, 15 December 1993.)

130 IMO (n 116) new Annex 5, para 12.

131 ibid para 30.


132 IMO, Report of the Thirty-Third Consultative Meeting of Contracting Parties to the London Convention and the Sixth Meeting of Parties to the London Protocol (2011) para 4.25–4.28

133 At the time of writing, a prototype web-based repository including scientific, policy and legal literature and other documents was available for unrestricted access <>.

134 Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal) 26 ILM (1987). In force 1 January 1989, art 10; CBD, art 18.3.

135 eg Dorf and Sabel (n 49).

136 MC Dorf, ‘The Domain of Reflexive Law: A Review Essay’ (2003) 103 ColumLRev 384.

137 IMO (n 116) new Annex 5, para 29.

138 Scott (n 83) 351.

139 IMO (n 123).

140 LOSC, art 87 (1)(f) and 239 (recognizing marine scientific research as a high seas freedom) and Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection, 30 ILM (1991) 1461, in force 14 January 1998, arts 3 and 8, Annex I.

141 See other conditions in Section II above.

142 The London Protocol currently has 45 Contracting Parties (Status 20 August 2015).

143 eg IMO, Thirty-Fourth Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the London Protocol and Seventh Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the London Protocol, Regulation of Ocean Fertilization and Other Activities – Information regarding the informal subgroup of experts examining questions under international law with regard to addressing ocean fertilization and other activities – Submitted by the United States (LC 34/4/5, 7 September 2012); IMO, Thirty-Fourth Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the London Protocol and Seventh Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the London Protocol, Ocean Fertilization – Report of the Working Group on Ocean Iron Fertilization (LC 34/WP.4, 1 November 2012) (including a proposal by the United States).

144 On these selected examples: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Washington) 12 ILM (1973) 1085, art IX; International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution by Ships (MARPOL) (London) 12 ILM (1973) 1319, arts 6 and 17; Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, (Vienna) Misc 3 25 ILM (1986) 1377, art 1. See P Birnie, A Boyle and C Redgwell, International Law and the Environment (3rd edn, OUP 2009).

145 de Búrca, Keohane and Sabel (n 20). See also R Reeve, ‘Wildlife Trade, Sanctions and Compliance: Lessons from the CITES Regime’ (2006) 82(5) International Affairs 881.

146 de Búrca, Keohane and Sabel (n 20) 784.

147 The Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea (ACOPS), Greenpeace International and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have been the most active observer organizations.

148 Abbot, C, ‘Bridging the Gap: Non-state Actors and the Challenges of New Technology’ (2012) 39(3) Journal of Law and Society 329CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

149 de Búrca, Keohane and Sabel (n 20); de Búrca, Keohane and Sabel (n 3).

150 eg J Holder, Environmental Assessment: The Regulation of Decision-making (OUP 2004); Steele, J, Participation and Deliberation in Environmental Law: Exploring a Problem-Solving Approach’ (2001) 21 OJLS 415CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For an international law perspective, Ebbesson, J, ‘The Notion of Public Participation in International Law’ (1997) 8(1) Yearbook of International Environmental Law 51CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

151 IMO (n 123).

152 M Lee, ‘Beyond Safety? The Broadening Scope of Risk Regulation’ (2012) CLP 242.

153 See S Jasanoff, Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe and the US (Princeton University Press 2007); C Sustein, Risk and Reasons: Safety, Law and the Environment (CUP 2002). See also J Steele, Risks and Legal Theory (Hart Publishing 2004).

154 See UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (‘Aarhus Convention’) 38 ILM (1999) 517. In force 24 February 2004. However, the Aarhus Convention is also open for accession to Member States of the United Nations outside the ECE region (see ECE/MP.PP/2/Add.1 (Lucca Declaration), paras 32–33; ECE/MP.PP/2005/2/Add.13 (decision II/9); ECE/MP.PP/2008/2/Add.16 (decision III/8), objective II.4; ECE/MP.PP/2011/2/Add.1 (decision IV/5).

155 Jasanoff (n 33).

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