There has been a spate of research in recent years indicating that achievement of the temperature objectives of the Paris Agreement can only be effectuated through both aggressive decarbonization of the global economy and large-scale deployment of so-called carbon dioxide removal (CDR) approaches. While much of the early focus of CDR research was on terrestrial options, such as afforestation, direct air capture, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, more recently, many in the scientific and policy community have increasingly focused on potential ocean-based approaches, including ocean fertilization, ocean alkalinity enhancement, macroalgae harvesting, and ocean upwelling and downwelling. However, while research on these approaches has proceeded, the regulatory process to oversee such research remains amorphous. This article seeks to establish the contours for regulation of ocean-based CDR under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It discusses the potential risks and benefits of the most prominently discussed ocean CDR options and suggests how UNCLOS’s provisions on marine scientific research might be applied to ensure effective global governance of such research.

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