Posts Tagged 'Policy'

Chapter 5: ocean acidification

Ocean acidification refers to the lowering of ocean pH as a consequence of changes in ocean chemistry arising from increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) being drawn down into the oceans from the atmosphere and is a problem concurrent with, rather than a consequence of, climate change. Although we now have a good understanding of the processes of ocean acidification, we know far less about the potential impact of a change in ocean pH on species and ecosystems.

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Ocean acidification and multilateral environmental agreements

Ocean acidification is caused by increased absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2). Since the beginning of the industrial age there has been an increase of around 30 per cent in the acidity of ocean surface waters. Given that the cause is limited to CO2 emissions, there are relatively few multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) that are relevant to the control of ocean acidification. Some, such as the Desertification Convention, are relevant in that the land-use management practices promoted under the Convention may help improve both the ability of certain areas to act as sinks and to prevent the release of CO2 as a result of poor land management. Others are more directly relevant. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) addresses marine pollution from land-based sources (Article 207) and through the atmosphere (Article 212). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the regime built upon it addresses emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), including CO2. Others, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, (CBD) are relevant in that they address the impact of ocean acidification on marine species.
In this chapter we focus on three key MEAs—UNCLOS, the UNFCCC regime and the CBD—and the relationship between them. As we demonstrate, the UNFCCC and UNCLOS are, or at least should be, inextricably linked in combating ocean acidification. The CBD is focussed on impacts on marine species and has been proactive in addressing ocean acidification and bringing the need for action to the attention of the UNFCCC. The formal links between the three regimes are not, however, as strong as they ought to be to tackle ocean acidification, and so we assess the suitability of potential mechanisms to strengthen these links.

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Enhancing synergies between action on ocean acidification and the post‐2020 global biodiversity framework

Ocean acidification is a substantial emergent threat to marine biodiversity and the goods and services it provides. While efforts to address ocean acidification have been taken under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a far greater potential to do so exists by finding synergies between biodiversity conservation efforts and ocean acidification action. The ongoing process to develop a post‐2020 global biodiversity framework offers an opportunity to ensure that opportunities for addressing ocean acidification are capitalised upon and not overlooked. In this paper, I argue that a two‐pronged approach is needed to achieve this. First, via a technical integration of ocean acidification across the targets to be included in the post‐2020 framework, and second, through a reframing of the issue as a ‘biodiversity problem’, so as to highlight the synergies between existing biodiversity work and action needed to address ocean acidification. Given this framework is intended to establish the global biodiversity agenda for the coming decades, integration of ocean acidification will set a precedent for the other biodiversity‐related conventions and encourage greater uptake of the issue across the wider international community. This paper is of direct relevance to those participating in the negotiations, both from a Party perspective and those advocating for a strong outcome to protect marine biodiversity and marine socio‐ecological systems. This paper is also of relevance to those working beyond the CBD within the other biodiversity‐related conventions where efforts to address ocean acidification are sorely lacking.

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The impacts of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and reliant human communities

Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, from fossil fuel combustion and deforestation, along with agriculture and land-use practices are causing wholesale increases in seawater CO2 and inorganic carbon levels; reductions in pH; and alterations in acid-base chemistry of estuarine, coastal, and surface open-ocean waters. On the basis of laboratory experiments and field studies of naturally elevated CO2 marine environments, widespread biological impacts of human-driven ocean acidification have been posited, ranging from changes in organism physiology and population dynamics to altered communities and ecosystems. Acidification, in conjunction with other climate change–related environmental stresses, particularly under future climate change and further elevated atmospheric CO2 levels, potentially puts at risk many of the valuable ecosystem services that the ocean provides to society, such as fisheries, aquaculture, and shoreline protection. This review emphasizes both current scientific understanding and knowledge gaps, highlighting directions for future research and recognizing the information needs of policymakers and stakeholders.

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European policies and legislation targeting ocean acidification in European waters – current state

Ocean acidification (OA) is a global problem with profoundly negative environmental, social and economic consequences. From a governance perspective, there is a need to ensure a coordinated effort to directly address it. This study reviews 90 legislative documents from 17 countries from the European Economic Area (EEA) and the UK that primarily border the sea. The primary finding from this study is that the European national policies and legislation addressing OA is at best uncoordinated. Although OA is acknowledged at the higher levels of governance, its status as an environmental challenge is greatly diluted at the European Union Member State level. As a notable exception within the EEA, Norway seems to have a proactive approach towards legislative frameworks and research aimed towards further understanding OA. On the other hand, there was a complete lack of, or inadequate reporting in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive by the majority of the EU Member States, with the exception of Italy and the Netherlands. We argue that the problems associated with OA and the solutions needed to address it are unique and cannot be bundled together with traditional climate change responses and measures. Therefore, European OA-related policy and legislation must reflect this and tailor their actions to mitigate OA to safeguard marine ecosystems and societies. A stronger and more coordinated approach is needed to build environmental, economic and social resilience of the observed and anticipated changes to the coastal marine systems.

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Climate change increases the risk of fisheries conflict

The effects of climate change on the ocean environment – especially ocean warming, acidification, and sea level rise – will impact fish stocks and fishers in important ways. Likely impacts include changes in fish stocks’ productivity and distribution, human migration to and away from coastal areas, stresses on coastal fisheries infrastructure, and challenges to prevailing maritime boundaries. In this paper, we explore these and other related phenomena, in order to assess whether and how the impacts of climate change on fisheries will contribute to the risk of fisheries conflict. We argue that climate change will entail an increase in the conditions that may precipitate fisheries conflict, and thereby create new challenges for existing fisheries management institutions. Several potential changes in fisheries management policy are recommended to avert the growing risk of fisheries-related conflicts.

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Dissolved oxygen and pH criteria leave fisheries at risk

Changes in human population centers and agricultural fertilizer use have accelerated delivery rates of nitrogen and phosphorus to coastal waters, often stimulating rapid accumulations of primary production (1). Whereas resulting eutrophication processes are of less environmental relevance in well-mixed, ocean ecosystems, when they occur in warm, stratified, and/or poorly mixed waters, they can result in hypoxia [depletion of dissolved oxygen (DO)] and acidification (decrease in pH), both of which individually can have adverse effects on aquatic life, affecting a suite of physiological processes and increasing mortality rates (2, 3). Only recently, however, have studies of aquatic hypoxia begun to consider coeffects of low pH (4). Many ecologically and/or economically important shellfish and finfish that experience decreased survival and/or growth when exposed to hypoxia are further impaired by concurrent acidification (4). Yet although scientific understanding of DO and pH variability and documentation of coastal hypoxic and acidification events have improved, regulatory reform has not kept pace. We suggest that more stringent DO and pH numeric criteria be considered to account for the negative effects of low pH on marine life and the combined impairment from low DO and low pH.

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Ocean acidification: a due diligence obligation under the LOSC

This article explores the extent to which ocean acidification is adequately addressed by the law of the sea. It will assess the various obligations under Part XII of the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (LOSC) to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment, and analyse the extent to which these obligations appropriately address ocean acidification. This article argues that LOSC Parties are subject to a due diligence obligation under Part XII of the Convention to prevent, reduce and control ocean acidification, and that this obligation is not satisfied by simply complying with their obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, unless those actions also deliberately address ocean acidification. This article goes on to examine whether and to what extent ocean acidification should be factored into decision-making associated with marine planning, fisheries management and area-based protection under the law of the sea.

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Adaptation to climate change–related ocean acidification: an adaptive governance approach


• Ocean acidification presents a serious threat to marine aquaculture and food security.

• Emphasis on locally-led adaptation efforts and local ownership is enhancing adaptive capacity.

• Co-ordination and coherence is needed to support learning-based adaptation across scales.

• Legal adaptive capacity of aquaculture licensing and sector constraints may restrict adaptation.

• Ocean acidification salience is low and limits engaging stakeholders in early adaptation design.


Climate change-driven ocean acidification (OA) is causing rapid change to global ecosystems and poses a significant threat to marine life. However, predicting ecosystem effects remains highly uncertain and governance responses to OA are not yet forthcoming. Adaptive governance can provide a means to deal with this uncertainty and we consider its application to the polycentric governance of adaptation responses to OA in Scotland, focussing on the aquaculture industry as a vulnerable sector. A workshop was used to develop potential responses to OA and to gain information about present and potential capacity for adaptive governance at national and regional levels. Scottish legislation, policy and planning documents were subsequently analysed to enable description of how governance and management arrangements constrain or enable adaptation responses. Legislative and policy analysis indicates convergence across emerging mechanisms in support of adaptive governance and identified interventions. Recent advances in climate change adaptation in Scotland promotes integration of adaptation into wider Scottish Government policy development and functions, based on iterative and collaborative processes across scales. Alongside this, new models of coastal and marine governance, including a partnership-led regional marine planning process and devolution of seabed management rights under Crown Estate Scotland, seek to advance new models of locally-led and learning-based planning and management which can support adaptation responses. However, adaptation measures at operational scale requires flexibility in the aquaculture licensing regime which is currently of low adaptive capacity. Further, expansion of the industry faces social and ecological constraints which limit spatial measures, and are complicated by uncertainty in predicting local OA effects. Expanding the use of holistic and co-operative management tools such as Aquaculture Management Areas could support adaptation across wider spatial scales. Better integration across policy and planning instruments is also needed to enhance adaptive capacity, including between climate change adaptation, marine planning and aquaculture planning and management. This could be enabled by establishing links between existing and proposed collaborative groups to enhance development of adaptation responses and through co-ordination of monitoring and review processes to promote learning across scales.

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Planetary boundary downscaling for absolute environmental sustainability assessment — Case study of Taiwan


• The PB concept has been applied in assessing AES in local level.

• The current national data can be easily connected with PB concept.

• Downscaled PBs by territorial perspective can be the local targets for AES.

• Dynamic concept was introduced for enhancing normalization and weighting.


The planetary boundary (PB) concept can be used as a guide for the absolute environmental sustainability (AES) of humanity. However, the downscaling of PB as a guide remains a challenge at the local scale. This study aims to establish absolute environmentally sustainable indicators (AESIs) and a threshold based on five processes of the Earth system, namely, climate change, ocean acidification, biogeochemical flow (phosphorus and nitrogen cycles), land system change, and freshwater use, for local AES assessment. A case study of Taiwan was conducted. This work also introduced the dynamic concept into developing dynamic normalization factors (DNFs) and dynamic weighting factors (DWFs) for AESIs to support decision-making. DNFs were defined as desired targets in the future; they were developed on the basis of the thresholds of AESIs at the global and national levels in a different timeline. DWFs were defined as weights for assessing the distance of a current situation from the desired targets; they were evaluated on the basis of the distance-to-target approach.

The territorial perspective was adopted as a downscaling method to develop 11 AESIs and thresholds based on the PB framework for the AES assessment of Taiwan. Results showed that the nationally determined contribution target of the carbon pathway is not ambitious compared with the annual and cumulative boundaries of climate change and ocean acidification. Phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers are two of the three subcategories in biogeochemical flow with very high risks. Phosphorus flow from a freshwater system to the oceans and forest cover was evaluated as moderate risk. Meanwhile, annual freshwater use was determined as low risk. However, when spatial and temporal factors were considered, annual freshwater use was assessed as high risk during the dry season in Southern and Central Taiwan. DNFs and DWFs are more suitable at the local level than at the global level when applying normalization and weighting to reflect a real situation. This study not only provided a new concept for local policy makers to rethink environmental sustainability, but also explored various AES tools at the local scale to connect the local situation with global issues to support decision-making.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book