Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) geoengineering, the proposal to counteract anthropogenic climate change by large-scale removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is playing an increasingly prominent role in the modelling that informs international climate change policy. Most of the modelling for the 1.5–2°C temperature stabilisation targets of the Paris Agreement assumes that large-scale CDR will start by 2030 and be in full swing by 2050. The research, testing and development of CDR technologies needed to support these expectations pose significant challenges for international and domestic climate change law. Prominent examples of CDR proposals include bioenergy production with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and carbon sequestration by ocean fertilisation. Australia has vast land and marine estates so has a natural advantage to contribute to the research, field-testing and development and implementation of CDR. Despite this, there has been little analysis to date of how Australian law might govern CDR research, testing and development. Using case studies of BECCS and ocean fertilisation CDR techniques, this article examines the capacity of current Australian law to govern CDR research. We find that general environmental legislation might provide a basic governance framework for research and field-testing of BECCS and ocean fertilisation, but recommend that specific laws be developed if CDR is to play a prominent role in meeting Australia’s international climate change commitments.
law, Australia, geoengineering, Carbon dioxide removal, CDR, bioenergy production with carbon capture and storage, BECS