Posts Tagged 'Policy'

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

Highlights

• 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.

Abstract

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

Highlights

• 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.

Abstract

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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The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: a governing framework for ocean acidification?

Ocean acidification is a major emergent threat to the ocean, its wildlife and the goods and services they provide. While the international community has committed to ‘minimize and address’ ocean acidification as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is unclear how this is to be fulfilled, especially as there are no international agreements explicitly designed to tackle this issue. Ocean acidification is of relevance to the work of several global agreements and makes achieving their goals more difficult. Being largely sectoral, these agreements are restricted in their ability to address ocean acidification holistically, often unable to both minimize and address the issue. This has resulted in a very limited response to ocean acidification that is fragmented across a number of regimes. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has been identified as an agreement that could be used to regulate carbon dioxide emissions and thus mitigate ocean acidification. However, this article argues that a far more pivotal role can be played by UNCLOS, through its creation of a governing framework for ocean acidification. UNCLOS is the one Convention with a mandate broad enough to address ocean acidification in a direct, holistic manner. UNCLOS places a duty on States to both minimize and address ocean acidification through its various provisions that pertain to the protection and preservation of the marine environment and the conservation of marine living resources. The Convention establishes the framework through which ocean governance is to be implemented, which should be understood as extending to ocean acidification. Thus, UNCLOS is uniquely placed to guide a coherent international response.

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Framing ocean acidification to mobilise action under multilateral environmental agreements

Highlights

• Ocean acidification is commonly framed as a problem of carbon dioxide emissions concurrent to climate change.

• This framing has been effective at mobilising action at the domestic level in the United States.

• This framing has resulted in misaligning the problem of ocean acidification with regime mandates at the international level.

• To mobilise action at the international level a reframing of ocean acidification is warranted.

Abstract

Ocean acidification has long been framed by its epistemic community as a problem of carbon dioxide emissions that is concurrent to climate change. Framing ocean acidification in this way has been effective at garnering policy action at the domestic level in the United States. It is argued, however, in this paper that this framing has been counterproductive at the international level, resulting in two main impediments to the international governance of this issue. Firstly, defining ocean acidification as a concurrent problem to climate change, rather than as an impact of it, has resulted in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change being interpreted as containing no obligation to address ocean acidification. Secondly, focussing almost solely on the reduction of global emissions of carbon dioxide as the only global solution to ocean acidification has resulted in ocean and biodiversity-related regimes that do not have the mandate to regulate CO2 emissions as being viewed as without the recourse to respond. Through an examination of the causes and consequences of ocean acidification and the general objectives of existing multilateral environmental agreements, a set of alternative problem frames are developed in this paper that could be deployed to mobilize action under existing environmental regimes.

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Legal practices and challenges in addressing climate change and its impact on the oceans—a Chinese perspective

Highlights

• International legal and policy instruments contain certain measures to tackle the effects of climate change on the oceans.

• China has also committed to addressing the effects of climate change on the oceans.

• The overlapping of different systems has, however, created some difficulties in practice and further coordination is urgently required.

• The ultimate solution in avoiding the worsening effects of climate change on the oceans would be to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases worldwide and China wishes to take a leading role in such efforts.

Abstract

Two key drivers, ocean warming and ocean acidification, affect the oceans and adds to the climate change adversely. International legal and policy instruments contain certain measures to tackle these growing effects. China is also committed to addressing the effects of climate change on the oceans. The overlapping of different systems has, however, created some difficulties in practice and further coordination is urgently required. This paper uses qualitative methods to investigate China’s legal practices in addressing the effects of climate change and their impact on the oceans. The study considers newly introduced policies and recent actions launched by the Chinese Government to chart a clearer picture of the current practices. To this end, it is concluded that the ultimate solution in avoiding the worsening effects of climate change on the oceans would be to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases worldwide, and China aims to take advantage of playing leading role in such efforts.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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