Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Environmental Regulation of Marine Carbon Capture and Storage in New Zealand: Principles, Barriers and Gaps

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posted on 2021-11-22, 08:30 authored by Severinsen, Gregory

This thesis concerns the regulation of a technology called carbon capture and storage (CCS). The technology is one way to mitigate anthropogenic climate change, by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at point sources (such as power or industrial plants) and injecting them into deep underground geological formations. Specifically, the thesis looks at the framework of public environmental law that is needed for CCS in New Zealand where injection occurs offshore in its coastal marine area and exclusive economic zone. The thesis concludes that, when tested against existing principles in New Zealand's environmental law and the requirements of international law, current provisions in domestic law contain both significant barriers and gaps. These barriers must be removed and gaps must be filled.  The thesis identifies three broad features of New Zealand's law that give rise to a range of barriers and that need to be addressed. First, there is substantial uncertainty as to how existing provisions would apply to CCS. Greater certainty is needed. Secondly, the classification of CCS as a form of marine dumping presents a significant barrier. The technology needs to be classified differently, and more positively. Thirdly, the law contains a general prohibition on considering the effects of activities on climate change. This may prevent CCS being deployed in practice, and needs to be reconsidered.  New Zealand's existing law also contains three potential gaps, which must be filled. First, there is a dearth of CCS-specific regulatory and policy provisions within existing regimes such as the Resource Management Act 1991. This means operators and regulators would be operating in a regulatory and policy vacuum. Decisions may be inconsistent, fail to impose appropriate environmental standards, or fail to give appropriate weight to relevant considerations. Secondly, there are limitations in the ability of existing regimes to regulate the positive effects of activities – such as climate change mitigation - to ensure that they are actually achieved. Thirdly, existing law does not facilitate the kind of targeted and comparative decision-making process needed for CCS. This means that it does not provide an effective process for resolving tensions between competing resource interests in the sub-seabed.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

New Zealand Centre for Public Law

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Law


Iorns Magallanes, Catherine; Knight, Dean