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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: A PLANETARY BOUNDARY
  5. IS THE CLIMATE REGIME CAPABLE OF ADDRESSING OCEAN ACIDIFICATION?
  6. APPLICABILITY AND RESPONSES OF OTHER MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS RELEVANT TO OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
  7. AN ASSESSMENT OF EMERGING POLYCENTRIC PATTERNS OF OCEAN ACIDIFICATION GOVERNANCE
  8. BRINGING LIGHT TO THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TWILIGHT ZONE
  9. CONCLUSION

No multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) has so far been concluded with a view to addressing the problem of ocean acidification. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is considered by many as being capable of addressing ocean acidification as it regulates carbon dioxide emissions – the root cause of the problem. In this article it is argued that, on the contrary, the UNFCCC does not provide an adequate legal framework for the problem because ocean acidification is not an effect of ‘climate change’, meaning that it is outside the UNFCCC's jurisdiction. The article provides a critical examination of whether ocean acidification is likely to be addressed through the self-organization of existing MEAs or whether a new MEA is necessary. Specifically, it considers the extent to which the provisions of relevant MEAs are applicable to ocean acidification and how their decision-making bodies have responded to the problem. This article observes inherent weaknesses in the emerging polycentric order and reaches the conclusion that a new MEA on ocean acidification is necessary to fill the regulatory gap. The article concludes by outlining two hypothetical candidates as a way of discussing key considerations informing the choice of an appropriate form and forum for an MEA on ocean acidification.


INTRODUCTION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: A PLANETARY BOUNDARY
  5. IS THE CLIMATE REGIME CAPABLE OF ADDRESSING OCEAN ACIDIFICATION?
  6. APPLICABILITY AND RESPONSES OF OTHER MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS RELEVANT TO OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
  7. AN ASSESSMENT OF EMERGING POLYCENTRIC PATTERNS OF OCEAN ACIDIFICATION GOVERNANCE
  8. BRINGING LIGHT TO THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TWILIGHT ZONE
  9. CONCLUSION

Ocean acidification poses a serious global environmental challenge, but only recently has it caught the attention of the international community, having been overshadowed by the climate change problem. Ocean acidification is a direct consequence of the increased concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere due to anthropogenic activity, and has been dubbed ‘the other CO2 problem’.1 Oceans naturally exchange CO2 with the atmosphere, and constitute a significant carbon reservoir in the global carbon cycle.2 Over the past 200 years, the oceans have absorbed about 40% of the excess CO2 that humans have emitted into the atmosphere.3 Although this natural buffering effect has helped to mitigate anthropogenic climate change, the extra carbon taken up by the oceans is decreasing their pH and making them more acidic.4 The increasing acidity is predicted to have dire consequences for many marine ecosystems and species – especially those organisms which form shells and plates out of calcium carbonate, such as coral reefs.5 Ocean acidification is now widely recognized as being among the most pressing global environmental challenges that humanity faces in the years to come.6

Despite the significance of the problem, no multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) has so far been concluded with a view to addressing it. As a newly emerging global environmental problem, ocean acidification exists in an ‘international legal twilight zone’.7 This article explores whether a separate MEA on ocean acidification is necessary to bring light to twilight and fully address the problem. This question is particularly relevant in the context of ocean acidification because the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)8 and its Kyoto Protocol9 could be considered as being responsible for, and capable of, addressing the problem. Indeed, these MEAs regulate CO2 emissions, the root cause of ocean acidification.10 However, it is questionable to what extent the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol impose an obligation on the parties to prevent ocean acidification. In addition, the presence of a plethora of MEAs governing some aspects of ocean acidification makes the question of ‘to treaty or not to treaty?’ worthy of a scholarly investigation. In this article, I approach the question through a survey of applicability and responses to ocean acidification of key MEAs, and an assessment of polycentric governance patterns that these MEAs have created.

The article proceeds as follows. Following a brief review of the science of ocean acidification, I argue that the UNFCCC, with its narrow atmospheric focus on climate change, does not provide an adequate legal framework for addressing ocean acidification. I then critically examine whether ocean acidification is likely to be addressed through the self-organization of existing MEAs or whether a new MEA on ocean acidification is necessary. Specifically, I consider the extent to which the provisions of relevant MEAs are applicable to ocean acidification, and how their decision-making bodies have responded to the problem, both individually and interactively. I observe inherent weaknesses in the emerging polycentric order and reach the conclusion that a new MEA on ocean acidification is necessary to fill the regulatory gap. Finally, as an attempt to initiate a scholarly discussion on these aspects, I outline some of the key institutional considerations informing the choice of an appropriate form and forum. I introduce a couple of hypothetical candidates, and explore the potential implications for the wider system of international environmental law and governance, especially in relation to the existing climate regime.

OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: A PLANETARY BOUNDARY

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: A PLANETARY BOUNDARY
  5. IS THE CLIMATE REGIME CAPABLE OF ADDRESSING OCEAN ACIDIFICATION?
  6. APPLICABILITY AND RESPONSES OF OTHER MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS RELEVANT TO OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
  7. AN ASSESSMENT OF EMERGING POLYCENTRIC PATTERNS OF OCEAN ACIDIFICATION GOVERNANCE
  8. BRINGING LIGHT TO THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TWILIGHT ZONE
  9. CONCLUSION

The issue of ocean acidification is closely related to climate change through the global carbon cycle. CO2 released from fossil fuel combustion equilibrates among the various carbon reservoirs of the atmosphere, the ocean and the terrestrial biosphere on timescales of a few centuries.11 The oceans' exchange of carbon with the atmosphere is largely driven by the difference in the partial pressure of CO2 between the atmosphere and the surface ocean water; a portion of the anthropogenic CO2 dissolves in the surface layer of the sea, acidifying the oceans. The ocean acidity is largely restored by excess dissolution of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) from the sea floor and on land and, ultimately, by silicate weathering on land, allowing more carbon to be soaked up, while maintaining ocean pH at a reasonably constant level12 at near 8.25 in pre-industrial times.13 However, humanity has perturbed the global carbon cycle by emitting too much CO2 too quickly.

The oceans have taken up around 40% of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions over the past 200 years.14 As a result, carbonic levels have risen and seawater has become increasingly acidic; pH has dropped by approximately 0.1 units since industrialization, which amounts to a considerable increase in acidity. Although there are other causes of ocean acidification from sulphur and nitrogen compounds,15 the scale of the impact is not comparable to that of CO2. Over the next century, seawater pH is projected to decline by 0.5 units, at a rate unprecedented in the past 55 million years.16 Biological and ecological effects are generally considered large and negative.17 Calcification in both flora and fauna is reduced at lower pH values,18 leading to changes in the composition of communities and global marine ecosystem services. The impact is not limited to the marine environment,19 and negative implications can be expected for sustainable development,20 food security21 and the economy.22 Accordingly, ocean acidification has been identified among non-negotiable planetary boundaries that humanity needs to respect in order to avoid the risk of unacceptable environmental change at both the continental and global scales.23

From a scientific perspective, there are no viable geo-engineering quick fixes to reduce ocean acidity. Solar radiation management will not affect levels of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere, and ocean acidification will therefore continue. Some ocean-based CO2 removal approaches, such as ocean iron fertilization, could, in theory, reduce the rate of increase of atmospheric CO2 and hence the rate of ocean acidification in the upper ocean. However, if deployed on a climatically significant scale, these approaches would relocate acidification from the upper ocean to mid- or deep water,24 where biota may be more sensitive to pH changes.25 Furthermore, ocean iron fertilization involves a high risk of acute local impacts and more diffuse, long-term changes in carbonate chemistry on a regional and global basis through subsequent mixing in the ocean interior and the return of deep waters to the surface via upwelling.26 Adding limestone powder to upwelling regions has been considered to cause large-scale ecosystem damage by locally raising pH beyond organisms' tolerance limits or decreasing light penetration through precipitation effects.27

In the absence of feasible geo-engineering remedies, future ocean acidity levels strictly depend on CO2 emission pathways.28 Rapid and deep reductions in CO2 emissions or drawing atmospheric carbon into terrestrial biomass are the only viable solution to the ocean acidification problem.29 Present scientific knowledge suggests that a target of 350 ppm CO2 may be required to maintain the integrity of marine ecosystems.30 An overshoot to 450 ppm CO2 would involve considerable risk of large-scale ocean acidification impacts for the upper ocean,31 and would be catastrophic for corals.32

IS THE CLIMATE REGIME CAPABLE OF ADDRESSING OCEAN ACIDIFICATION?

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: A PLANETARY BOUNDARY
  5. IS THE CLIMATE REGIME CAPABLE OF ADDRESSING OCEAN ACIDIFICATION?
  6. APPLICABILITY AND RESPONSES OF OTHER MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS RELEVANT TO OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
  7. AN ASSESSMENT OF EMERGING POLYCENTRIC PATTERNS OF OCEAN ACIDIFICATION GOVERNANCE
  8. BRINGING LIGHT TO THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TWILIGHT ZONE
  9. CONCLUSION

The UNFCCC is an international legal framework for regulating anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions for the purpose of mitigating climate change. This section critically examines the adequacy and relevance of the UNFCCC's provisions in preventing ocean acidification.

DOES THE UNFCCC IMPOSE AN OBLIGATION ON ITS PARTIES TO PREVENT OCEAN ACIDIFICATION?

It is commonly perceived that the UNFCCC provides ‘one framework within which both ocean acidification and climate change can be tackled’.33 The German Advisory Council on Global Change, for example, contended that Article 2 of the UNFCCC encompasses an obligation to take into account the impacts of increasing atmospheric CO2 levels upon the oceans.34 Article 2 obliges its parties ‘to achieve … stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’, which is in turn defined to include the oceans as an integral part. Oceans are part of the hydrosphere, and its marine organisms are part of the biosphere, as well as the interactions of the oceans with the atmosphere and the biosphere.35

However, the Kyoto Protocol, in implementing the objective set out in the UNFCCC Article 2, imposes no specific requirement to reduce CO2 emissions, but rather aggregate anthropogenic CO2 equivalent emissions of greenhouse gases.36 This means that Annex B parties to the Kyoto Protocol (i.e., developed countries) are allowed to increase their CO2 emissions as long as there is a required reduction in their emission of other greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, even though this will worsen ocean acidity. Therefore, the climate regime's capacity to address ocean acidification occurs only incidentally as they attend to minimizing the effects of climate change.37

For the above Kyoto Protocol provisions to be found in violation of, or incompatible with, the object and purpose of the UNFCCC, the parties to the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol need to recognize the legal causation that the stability of the climate system can only be maintained by preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with ocean acidity. Such recognition would translate into regulation of human interference with all major carbon sinks and reservoirs in the global carbon cycle with a long-term view (taking into account the lifetime of CO2), beyond the current Kyoto Protocol's focus on short-term fluxes of carbon in and out of the atmosphere. However, this transformation is highly unlikely to occur spontaneously.

This is in significant part because the uptake of atmospheric CO2 by the oceans is currently presented in the climate regime as part of the solution to climate change.38 The UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol obligate all parties to promote sustainable management, and promote and cooperate in the conservation, enhancement and protection of the oceans as sinks and reservoirs.39 This means that not only must parties act to enhance the ‘passive’ absorption of anthropogenic CO2 into the oceans, but these provisions can even be read as encouraging ‘active’ ocean sequestration of CO2 through marine geo-engineering measures such as ocean iron fertilization.40 In other words, by design, the climate regime has been externalizing the cost of mitigating climate change, which has manifested partly as the acidifying ocean. If parties to the UNFCCC were to acknowledge ocean acidification as a problem in and of itself, they would have to account for the excess carbon that the oceans naturally absorb. This will place a huge additional burden on the parties.

At a more fundamental level, there is a jurisdictional issue of whether the UNFCCC's language suggests that its parties are required to address ocean acidification. The UNFCCC is concerned about ‘change in the Earth's climate and its adverse effects’.41 Technically, ocean acidification does not fit into the definitions of either climate change or its adverse effects. Ocean acidification is neither ‘a change of climate’ that is caused by dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system42 nor a change ‘in the physical environment or biota resulting from climate change’.43 Rather, ocean acidification shares the same cause as climate change, as it is a change of ocean acidity, ‘which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere’.44

It is then questionable whether the parties to the Kyoto Protocol are required to determine ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference’ by reference to a dangerous ocean pH threshold.45 The UNFCCC states that any anthropogenic interference with the climate system is deemed ‘dangerous’ if the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations is not achieved ‘within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change’.46 Although the climate system is broadly defined to include the oceans, significantly it is climate change –not oceanic (acidity) change – that conditions what is considered ‘dangerous’. Therefore, the emissions targets set by the Kyoto Protocol are calibrated by reference to their atmospheric, rather than oceanic, effects47 and parties have no obligation to do otherwise.

From a strictly legal perspective, therefore, the UNFCCC, with its narrow atmospheric focus on climate change, does not have jurisdiction over ocean acidification. In contrast to the claim of the German Advisory Council on Global Change,48 the UNFCCC does not impose an obligation on its parties to prevent ocean acidification. This has created a major gap in international environmental law as full compliance with the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol will not necessarily prevent further ocean acidification.

A FLAWED APPROACH TO OCEAN ACIDICIATION AS AN ADVERSE EFFECT OF CLIMATE CHANGE

The risk that ocean acidification poses on marine ecosystems has so far received little attention from the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC.49 The first reference to ocean acidification in a COP decision appeared in 2010, when the COP began considering ocean acidification as a ‘slow onset event’ under the Cancun Adaptation Framework's work programme on loss and damage.50 This work programme was established in recognition of ‘the need to strengthen international cooperation and expertise in order to understand and reduce loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including impacts related to extreme weather events and slow onset events’.51 In a footnote, the COP specified what these slow onset events are, and they included ocean acidification along with sea level rise, increasing temperatures, glacial retreat and related impacts, salinization, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification. Significantly, ocean acidification was listed along with other ‘adverse effects of climate change’.

As Harrould-Kolieb and Herr correctly pointed out, this ‘suggests that the COP erroneously views rising ocean acidity as a symptom of climate change rather than as a concurrent problem’.52 Although ocean acidification is closely related to climate change, sharing a common cause, ocean acidification is a threat additional to climate change. Therefore, the parties need to approach the problem of ocean acidification differently from other effects of climate change. It is not clear whether the observed misconceived view was a mistake made with intent, but it is in fact widespread within the UNFCCC.53 Given that ocean acidification sits outside the UNFCCC's jurisdiction, the COP might have no other choice but to consider ocean acidification as an adverse effect of climate change if it were to consider ocean acidification at all. This inherent structural design limitation translates to the limited applicability or potential effectiveness of the UNFCCC as an international legal instrument in mitigating ocean acidification.

APPLICABILITY AND RESPONSES OF OTHER MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS RELEVANT TO OCEAN ACIDIFICATION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: A PLANETARY BOUNDARY
  5. IS THE CLIMATE REGIME CAPABLE OF ADDRESSING OCEAN ACIDIFICATION?
  6. APPLICABILITY AND RESPONSES OF OTHER MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS RELEVANT TO OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
  7. AN ASSESSMENT OF EMERGING POLYCENTRIC PATTERNS OF OCEAN ACIDIFICATION GOVERNANCE
  8. BRINGING LIGHT TO THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TWILIGHT ZONE
  9. CONCLUSION

In addition to the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, the acidifying ocean poses a barrier to achieving the objectives of a significant number of MEAs. These MEAs can be identified as forming part of the emerging ‘regime complex’54 for ocean acidification. This section explores applicable provisions contained in these MEAs, and how their formal decision-making bodies have responded to the problem of ocean acidification.

THE EXISTING COMPLEX OF MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)55 sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.56 Its objectives are broad enough to include ‘the conservation of their living resources, and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment’.57

Ocean acidification falls within the scope of UNCLOS through the definition of ‘pollution of the marine environment’.58 In the language of UNCLOS, oceanic deposition of anthropogenic CO2 translates to ‘substances’ introduced into the marine environment, causing the oceans to become increasingly acidic, ‘which results or is likely to result in such deleterious effects as harm to living resources and marine life, hazards to human health, hindrance to marine activities, including fishing and other legitimate uses of the sea, impairment of quality for use of sea water and reduction of amenities’.59 The anthropogenic emission of CO2, therefore, clearly constitutes a violation of ‘the obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment’,60 particularly ‘rare and fragile ecosystems as well as the habitat of depleted, threatened or endangered species and other forms of marine life’.61

In such circumstances, States are required to take all measures ‘necessary to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from any source’.62 This includes pollution from or through the atmosphere.63 Although this provision was not drafted with either ocean acidification or climate change in consideration, it can now be reasonably interpreted to apply to both. Similarly, Article 207, dealing with pollution fromland-based sources, is sufficiently broad to cover CO2 emissions taking place on national territories.

However, the UNCLOS provisions are too general to establish specific international standards to control land-based sources of marine pollution. Instead, UNCLOS can be understood as an umbrella convention that provides the overarching legal framework for a number of agreements on marine environmental protection and marine species conservation. Most of its provisions, being of a general nature (especially as regards its provisions dealing with the protection and preservation of the marine environment), can be implemented only through specific operative regulations in other international agreements.64 In the absence of an implementing agreement to UNCLOS that regulates land-based activities, the law of the sea's potential for directly regulating CO2 emissions is limited.

In 2007, ocean acidification made its first formal appearance in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on ‘oceans and the law of the sea’. In its preamble, the UNGA expressed ‘concern over the projected adverse effects of anthropogenic and natural climate change and ocean acidification on the marine environment and marine biodiversity’.65 In the years following, the ocean acidification reference contracted to only an indirect reference stating that ‘climate change … has weakened the ability of reefs to withstand ocean acidification’.66 However, from 2008 onwards, a reference to ocean acidification regularly appeared in the substantive section on the marine environment and marine resources.67 It included, notably, specific requests for States and international organizations to address the cause and impact of ocean acidification in cooperation with the Convention on Biological Diversity.68

Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)69 was adopted in 1992 as an international framework treaty for protecting biodiversity. Ocean acidification has been recognized as an important emerging issue within the context of the CBD with the potential to undermine the core principles upon which the Convention is founded. It is anticipated that ocean acidification will make it more challenging to implement the CBD's marine and coastal Programme of Work, and to comply with the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines for the sustainable use of biodiversity.70

The CBD COP-9 in 2008 first considered ocean acidification in a decision requesting the CBD Secretariat to compile and synthesize scientific information on the problem.71 A technical report was consequently published by the Secretariat in 2009.72 At the next COP in 2010, a decision was adopted to formally acknowledge ocean acidification as one of emerging issues and assigned the Programme of Work on Marine and Coastal Biological Diversity to consider the impacts of ocean acidification on marine biodiversity and habitats.73 The parties to the CBD clearly defined ocean acidification as ‘a direct consequence of increased carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere’.74 The COP endorsed ‘addressing … the potential adverse impacts on marine and coastal biodiversity of ocean acidification’ as one of the ‘climate change-related aspects of marine and coastal biodiversity’75 requiring ‘the ecological effects of [which to] be considered in conjunction with the impacts of global climate change’.76

Significantly, the COP adopted a biodiversity target in terms of ocean acidification as part of the Nagoya Strategic Plan. It stated that: ‘By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning.’77 However, the practical effectiveness of the target is limited because of the vagueness of the wordings such as ‘minimized’ together with often-discussed general weaknesses of the CBD regime.78 While lacking mechanisms to regulate the causes and effects of ocean acidification internationally, the COP also called on parties, other governments and organizations to incorporate emerging knowledge on ocean acidification into national biodiversity strategies and action plans, national and local plans on integrated marine and coastal area management, and the design and management plans for marine and coastal protected areas.79

The CBD COP has made a series of requests to its Executive Secretary to collaborate with the secretariats of other MEAs on ocean acidification.80 In 2010, for example, the Executive Secretary was requested to collaborate with the UNFCCC, Ramsar Convention,81 Antarctic Treaty82 and other international organizations, and develop a series of joint expert review processes to monitor and assess the impacts of ocean acidification on marine and coastal biodiversity, and transmit the results to the UNFCCC Secretariat.83

United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement

The 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA)84 is applicable to the problem of ocean acidification to the extent that its objective to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks is impacted. The Review Conference held in 2010 made a specific reference to ocean acidification. It called on regional fisheries management organizations to ‘strengthen efforts to study and address environmental factors affecting marine ecosystems, including adverse impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, and, where possible, consider such impacts in establishing conservation and management measures for straddling and highly migratory fish stocks’.85 This gave effect to Article 5(d) of the UNFSA, which imposes an obligation on parties to ‘assess the impacts of … other human activities and environmental factors on target stocks and species belonging to the same ecosystem or associated with or dependent upon the target stocks’.

In response to the request of the Conference, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission has recently launched a research project in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community that would study the impact of projected ocean acidification upon the distribution and abundance of yellowfin tuna. The outcome of the project will be available for use by other regional fisheries management organization, such as the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, which are not involved in ocean acidification.86

London Convention and Protocol

UNCLOS defers to the 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention)87 and its 1996 Protocol (London Protocol)88 on the issue of dumping at sea and in the ‘sea, seabed and subsoil’, respectively.89 The London Convention and Protocol relate to ocean acidification primarily through their responsibility to protect the marine environment and associated jurisdiction over a number of marine geo-engineering activities, such as CO2 Sequestration in Sub-seabed Geological Formations (CS-SSGF) and ocean fertilization, which involve some form of dumping.

The 26th Consultative Meeting established a CO2 Working Group to consider ‘whether the [London Convention and Protocol] had a role in relation to other work being carried out on CO2 sequestration for example in partnership with the UNFCCC’.90 The Working Group concluded in 2005 that, while other conventions and bodies are addressing the broader issue of climate change and how best to mitigate it by reducing emissions, increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are a serious concern to the marine environment, causing acidification of the oceans.91 Accordingly, the 27th Consultative Meeting acknowledged that CS-SSGF would bring about direct benefits to the marine environment such as stabilization of ocean CO2, carbonate, and pH levels,92 and hence has a role to play, as part of a suite of measures to tackle the challenge of both climate change and ocean acidification. Furthermore, it was agreed that the London Convention and Protocol were appropriate global instruments to address the implications of CS-SSGF for the marine environment. In the 28th Consultative Meeting, the parties accordingly amended Annex 1 to the Protocol to provide a regulatory framework for CS-SSGF.93

Parallel discussions for establishing a global control and regulatory mechanism for ocean fertilization activities have been underway since 2007. However, ocean acidification has been little discussed in the context of ocean fertilization,94 even though the potential risk of ocean fertilization to ‘contribute to lowering the pH of the seawater’ has been internally recognized by the parties.95 If due consideration were paid to the impact of ocean fertilization on ocean acidification, it would invoke Article 3.3 of the London Protocol that prohibits direct and indirect transfer of damage or likelihood of damage from one part of the environment to another or transform one type of pollution into another.

MARPOL Convention

The 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto and by the Protocol of 1997 (MARPOL Convention),96 aims to protect the marine environment by preventing and controlling the discharge of harmful substances from ships. The Convention is applicable to mitigating ocean acidification through its extended work on the prevention of air pollution from international shipping. The Kyoto Protocol contains a provision for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, working though the International Maritime Organization (IMO),97 which serves as the Secretariat for the MARPOL Convention. The UNFCCC Secretariat and IMO have cooperated by exchanging information and by undertaking a study of emissions from ships. The IMO regularly reports progress on its work to the UNFCCC.98

In 2011, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, and set mandatory measures to reduce emissions of ‘any substances that originate from fuel oil and its combustion process’ from all ships of 400 gross tonnage and above. Despite the direct relevance of these developments to mitigating ocean acidification, however, the extent to which ocean acidification has played as a driver to regulating emissions from shipping is questionable. The IMO's comprehensive greenhouse gas studies,99 while recognizing regional ocean acidification due to the deposition of SOX and NOX, do not mention CO2-induced ocean acidification. Ocean acidification caused by CO2 emissions was only recently mentioned, in passing, by the MEPC at its 60th session in 2010.100

OSPAR Convention

The 1992 Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-east Atlantic (OSPAR Convention)101 is the legal instrument guiding international cooperation on the protection of the marine environment of the North-east Atlantic. In 2007, OSPAR recognized that ocean acidification is a ‘cause of serious concern’.102 Like the London Convention and Protocol, the Contracting Parties to the OSPAR Convention considered CS-SSGF as one of the mitigation options to reduce levels of atmospheric CO2. In 2007, the OSPAR Commission amended the Annexes to the Convention to allow CS-SSGF and adopted decisions to guide its implementation and management.103 At the same time, the Commission legally banned placement of CO2 into the water-column of the sea and on the seabed because of its potential acidification effects.104

More recently, in 2010, the parties to the OSPAR Convention expressed concerns that ‘first effects of climate change and ocean acidification are apparent throughout the OSPAR maritime area’.105 The Quality Status Report 2010 of the OSPAR Commission recommended the development of policies aimed at mitigating climate change and acidification. Similarly, the North-east Atlantic Environment Strategy 2010–2020 adopted as one of its objectives ‘to ensure integrated management of human activities in order to reduce impacts on the marine environment, taking into account the impacts of, and responses to, climate change and ocean acidification’.106 It was agreed that the OSPAR Commission would strengthen the network of marine protected areas, recognizing their contribution to the maintenance of ecosystem integrity and resilience against impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.107 The Commission also agreed to monitor and assess the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on the marine environment and consider appropriate ways of responding to those developments.108 The Coordination Group and the Biodiversity Committee under the Commission are mandated to oversee climate-change-related issues including ocean acidification, and assess and monitor ocean acidification, respectively.109

Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty

The 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection (Madrid Protocol) to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty aims for ‘the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems’.110 At the 32nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in 2009, the parties agreed that ‘acidification of the ocean has profound implications for the marine ecosystem of the Southern Ocean’.111 The Southern Ocean is particularly vulnerable to acidification due to the higher solubility of CO2 in cold water and the low saturation levels of CaCO3.112

The applicability of the Madrid Protocol to addressing ocean acidification, however, is limited as it only applies to ‘activities in the Antarctic Treaty area’– that is, the area south of 60 degrees south latitude.113 Nevertheless, the Madrid Protocol provides a potential tool through which ocean iron fertilization activities can be partially regulated as the Southern Ocean is among the key places where these activities need to take place due to iron deficiency.

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), an official observer to the Antarctic Treaty, published a review report called Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment in 2009, which identified ocean acidification among the chronic impacts of climate change.114 By considering the Report's findings, the Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts considered that ‘ocean acidification must come high on the list of climate change related issues most likely to have maximum impact, likely as it is to have significant and “rapid” impacts for management’.115 This report was transmitted to the UNFCCC COP and Secretariat.116

Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources

The 1980 Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)117 is concerned about the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. CCAMLR forms part of the Antarctic Treaty System, along with the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, but has an independent secretariat. It is also one of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Seas Programme's partners along with the OSPAR Convention. Like the Antarctic Treaty and its Madrid Protocol, CCAMLR has limited jurisdiction. It only applies to activities taking place within the Antarctic Treaty area, such as illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

CCAMLR understands that ocean acidification is a threat to Antarctic krill and ecosystems,118 and it will impact on the CCAMLR's ability to fulfill its mandate.119 Cooperation with SCAR has been emphasized in relation to ocean acidification. In 2010, the CCAMLR Commission noted that ‘acidification is an important component for CCAMLR in the consideration of the impact of climate change’.120 The Commission accordingly requested that the issue of ocean acidification be included in the developments of the Joint CCAMLR–SCAR Action Group,121 which was proposed in order to improve the strategic partnership between the two organizations.

AN ASSESSMENT OF EMERGING POLYCENTRIC PATTERNS OF OCEAN ACIDIFICATION GOVERNANCE

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: A PLANETARY BOUNDARY
  5. IS THE CLIMATE REGIME CAPABLE OF ADDRESSING OCEAN ACIDIFICATION?
  6. APPLICABILITY AND RESPONSES OF OTHER MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS RELEVANT TO OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
  7. AN ASSESSMENT OF EMERGING POLYCENTRIC PATTERNS OF OCEAN ACIDIFICATION GOVERNANCE
  8. BRINGING LIGHT TO THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TWILIGHT ZONE
  9. CONCLUSION

This section discusses the emerging polycentric patterns of ocean acidification governance that the aforementioned MEAs have created. It assesses the degree of polycentric order, which in this context means the processes and structures that allow MEAs to self-organize and make mutual adjustments in the absence of any authoritative coordinating mechanisms.122

IS POLYCENTRIC ORDER EMERGING THROUGH SELF-ORGANIZATION?

Among the MEAs identified above as relevant to ocean acidification, the CBD has so far been most proactive in engaging with the problem. The potential role of the CBD as an effective inhouse coordinator appears promising, especially in supporting mutually reinforcing relationships between the UNFCCC and UCNLOS. While acknowledging the CBD is not a focal point for discussions on greenhouse gas emission reductions, the CBD Secretariat has recognized the responsibility and opportunity to enhance cooperation for the achievement of the two interrelated yet distinct mandates under the CBD and UNFCCC.123 Furthermore, the CBD decisions have been influential in the development of international norms relating to the ocean, including those within the climate change nexus.124 The recent developments under the CBD on the moratorium on ocean fertilization125 and geo-engineering126– both of which are at the intersection between climate change and (marine) biodiversity – have demonstrated the CBD's view to ensuring environmental sustainability in a holistic way.127

The work of the CBD, generally speaking, strengthens the framework established by UNCLOS to protect and preserve the marine environment.128 An interesting connection is the general recognition that ocean acidification is a significant threat to biodiversity, and the further recognition that biodiversity is crucial to good ecosystem health.129 By providing this context to the connection between ocean acidification and obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment under UNCLOS, the CBD plays a significant role in interpreting obligations of parties to mitigate ocean acidification. Furthermore, as the CBD lacks jurisdiction in areas beyond national jurisdiction,130 UNCLOS plays a complementary role by providing a legal framework for regulating activities impacting the biodiversity of these areas. An international instrument tailored for this purpose is looming on the horizon under the UNCLOS framework.131 This agreement would provide a forum at which the CBD and UNCLOS could mutually work towards the protection of marine environment from, inter alia, acidification.

However, parties to UNCLOS seem to have taken the position that the UNFCCC is the competent forum to discuss ocean acidification governance. At the 11th meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea in 2010, for example, the Group of 77 and China emphasized the need to avoid choosing topics which fell within the mandate of specific international organizations or institutions.132 Climate change was presented as such an issue area. A bridge to this impasse, suggested by some States, was to discuss the adverse effects of climate change on the marine environment, including ocean acidification,133 but leave their governance to the UNFCCC. In its 2008 resolution on ‘oceans and the law of the sea’, the UNGA had in fact agreed that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would need to occur in accordance with the principles contained in the UNFCCC.134 The task of defining what is by and large a fragmented, informal relationship between the law of the sea and climate regime remains underexplored.135

The non-hierarchical nature of international environmental law hinders the extent to which the MEAs can cooperate and coordinate. This is particularly an issue where treaty memberships are incongruent. For example, the CBD is actively prevented from influencing rule development in the climate regime in significant part because the United States is a Party to the UNFCCC but not to the CBD.136 Consequently, an MEA seeking to extend its scope to link with the UNFCCC and influence its negotiations is often left with no other option but to merely make information available for use at the discretion of the climate regime. Regional MEAs, such as CCAMLR, generally respond more sensitively to environmental changes occurring on a regional scale, thereby sending warning signals to the UNFCCC. However, they needed to exercise due care to ensure that they are not seen as attempts to encroach on the work of the UNFCCC.137 In fact, these smaller MEAs whose mandates are impacted by ocean acidification are more or less at the mercy of the UNFCCC. They ‘sit and watch’ without any remedy. A response from the Secretariat of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)138 best illustrates this point:139

Ocean acidification is a subject of significant concern for CMS since a number of filter-feeding whales, as well as turtles (e.g. hawksbill turtle) and other marine species which depend on coral reefs and krill, are affected. … Ocean acidification is not explicitly addressed in a CMS climate change decision … , not least because the fundamental cause of ocean acidification (i.e. CO2 emissions) cannot be directly addressed through this treaty.

It is important to strengthen the relationship among the UNFCCC, CBD and UNCLOS for facilitating mutual adjustments with a shared aim to address ocean acidification. Unlike the CBD, however, the UNFCCC and UNCLOS have become ‘static documents unable to adapt to the increasing threat of ocean acidification’.140 For the UNFCCC, in particular, ‘the connection with issues other than their own [has been] seen as an unwanted distraction’141 that overburdens the already crowded climate change agenda. The significance of ocean acidification has not been reflected within international climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.142 At the time of writing, there are few indications that this will change.

INCONSISTENT POLICY APPROACHES TO OCEAN ACIDIFICATION

International environmental law on the protection of the marine environment, for which there is the biggest number of MEAs,143 is a relatively coherent body of law due primarily to the presence of UNCLOS as the ‘constitution for the oceans’.144 The London Protocol and the OSPAR Convention, for example, share the same definition of ‘pollution’ as provided under UNCLOS.145 This has a significant implication for ocean acidification governance as the shared definition means that CO2-induced ocean acidification should be consistently considered as a breach of the marine environmental protection provisions under a wide spectrum of MEAs. It is therefore important to examine to what extent MEAs relating to marine environmental protection have harmonized under the UNCLOS framework for a mutually supportive approach to ocean acidification.

At this early development stage of the regime complex for ocean acidification, inconsistencies have been observed among the marine environment conventions. For example, while the London Convention and Protocol have explicitly recognized ocean acidification as a direct threat to the marine environment and, therefore, CO2 as a marine pollutant, this acknowledgement has yet to be repeated by other regimes such as the MARPOL Convention. During the 60th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee in 2010, some delegations insisted that ‘CO2 was not technically a pollutant and therefore had no place in the MARPOL Convention’.146 Such inconsistent approaches to ocean acidification persist despite a large overlap in treaty memberships and the status of UNCLOS as customary international law that binds all States.

Policy inconsistency can also be observed even within an MEA. The London Protocol treated the problem of ocean acidification differently when discussing regulatory mechanisms for CS-SSGF and ocean fertilization. Whereas ocean acidification was much discussed and played as a rationale for justifying the London Protocol to regulate CS-SSGF, it was virtually ignored in the context of ocean fertilization, perhaps due to a tacit recognition among its parties that ocean fertilization could worsen the acidification of seawater.147

In this context, the collaborative interactions between the London Convention and Protocol (and the OSPAR Convention) and the UNFCCC to address ocean acidification (and climate change) through regulation of CS-SSGF need to be viewed critically. From the outset, the level of adaptability and flexibility displayed by the London Convention and Protocol in filling governance gaps seems to form an example for others to follow. However, the main drivers for the collaboration were, first, its potential to enable developed countries to offset their climate targets under the Kyoto Protocol through the Clean Development Mechanism, and second, the potentially attractive commercial benefits to industry that CS-SSGF and ocean fertilization offer through potential linkages with emissions trading schemes. Marine geo-engineering measures such as CS-SSGF and ocean fertilization have indeed been criticized for transforming the climate change problem into its ‘evil twin’– ocean acidification.148 Some parties (such as Germany) had in fact voiced their concerns that any release of CO2 to the water column from CS-SSGF may result in the acidification of seawater.149

At the root of the inconsistency in the approaches to ocean acidification lies the confusion over the problem being seen as a symptom of climate change. As empirically observed by this study, the various COPs have not been clear in their decisions that ocean acidification is a concurrent issue that shares the same cause as climate change.150 Rather, ocean acidification has frequently been considered amongst adverse effects of climate change, or as a consequence of increased carbon emissions framed within the broad categorization of climate change. The widespread misconception of ocean acidification as a symptom of climate change might even be dangerous because it fosters the delusion that ocean acidification will be automatically addressed when the parties to the UNFCCC comply with the Convention. This observation has an important implication for how ocean acidification should be approached institutionally.

IS A NEW MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENT ON OCEAN ACIDIFACTION NECESSARY?

Global forest governance provides a useful analogy for the purpose of assessing the (in)effectiveness of ocean acidification governance. International forest law consists of a multitude of treaties and non-treaty instruments in a polycentric setting. These instruments have been dealing with issues such as forest biodiversity, protection of forests as carbon sinks, and trade in timber in a rather unprincipled and uncoordinated manner.151 In the absence of a ‘forest convention’, the legal implications of the affirmation that forest biodiversity protection is of ‘common concern of humankind’152 have been subject to debate.153 In this setting, ecosystem-based climate change mitigation mechanisms incentivized under the UNFCCC framework are reportedly having unintended negative consequences or externalities on forest biodiversity.154 The lack of a single agreed definition of ‘forest’ shared among different regimes has also contributed to continued deforestation and forest degradation.155 In other words, a high degree of polycentricity in global forest governance has caused malign diffusion of responsibilities, induced accountability problems and allowed MEAs to externalize the costs of their actions onto others.156

What this study has found in the context of ocean acidification governance is a similar accountability gap in international environmental law due to diffused responsibilities, legal uncertainties, policy inconsistencies and externalities. No regime assumes responsibility for the problem of ocean acidification, and the UNFCCC is no exception. The legal implications of the acidifying oceans have been unclear, and the approaches taken by MEAs have been inconsistent. The externalized cost of mitigating climate change has manifested as ocean acidification. Governance of ocean acidification at present is relatively fragmented and its (as yet) weak polycentric order is unlikely to be strengthened to an adequate level without an institutional intervention.

The observed problems are not simply due to the fact that the emerging regime complex for ocean acidification is in its infancy, but because there are inherent structural limitations within and outside the climate regime that act as barriers to developing a strong polycentric system. Several MEAs have taken action to develop ocean acidification policies in their specific areas of interest, but they were often limited in their options to increase their scope of action beyond their agreed mandates. Significantly, the norm of respecting the legal autonomy of the treaties has been a hurdle for policy coherence across planetary boundaries. The uneasy tension between ‘problem shifting’157 and what MEAs perceive as their ‘sovereignty’158 is not being adequately balanced in a polycentric governance organization. The challenge from a governance perspective is to simultaneously maintain the sub-systems within their boundaries without transfer of harm. Some MEAs such as UNCLOS do contain provisions obligating its parties ‘not to transfer damage or hazards or transform one type of pollution into another’.159 However, this duty is not explicitly expressed in the UNFCCC, even though the convention recognizes that climate change can have ‘significant deleterious effects on the composition, resilience or productivity of natural and managed ecosystems[,] on the operation of socio-economic systems[, and] on human health and welfare’.160

As Lamirande has argued, it may be true that ‘the time is ripe for an international treaty on ocean acidification’.161 While not being specific about the need for a new treaty, Baird et al. similarly suggested that it might ultimately prove necessary for positive change to be stimulated by what international relations scholars have called ‘strategic inconsistency’.162 This would involve parties to a particular regime seeking directly to regulate CO2 even though this would cut across the competence of the climate regime. In the present study, I also conclude that the international community is in need of a new or amended MEA that expressly mandates its member States to prevent further ocean acidification and respect the planetary boundary. If left to the self-organization of individual MEAs, it is highly unlikely that the gap in international environmental law in relation to ocean acidification will be closed soon enough to prevent unacceptable marine environmental change.

BRINGING LIGHT TO THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TWILIGHT ZONE

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: A PLANETARY BOUNDARY
  5. IS THE CLIMATE REGIME CAPABLE OF ADDRESSING OCEAN ACIDIFICATION?
  6. APPLICABILITY AND RESPONSES OF OTHER MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS RELEVANT TO OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
  7. AN ASSESSMENT OF EMERGING POLYCENTRIC PATTERNS OF OCEAN ACIDIFICATION GOVERNANCE
  8. BRINGING LIGHT TO THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TWILIGHT ZONE
  9. CONCLUSION

It is beyond the scope of this article to provide a comprehensive assessment of a range of possible forms and forums that the proposed MEA could take. The question of the form and forum for such an agreement necessarily involves a very complex set of legal and political considerations. Nevertheless, I outline two potential candidates as a way of discussing some of the key considerations that need to be paid should States decide to negotiate a new MEA on ocean acidification.

THE DURBAN PLATFORM: A WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

The first possibility is to address ocean acidification within the UNFCCC framework by ‘broadening’ and ‘deepening’ the climate regime.163 The UNFCCC COP-17 has established the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action to initiate a new process to produce either a ‘protocol’, ‘another legal instrument’ (e.g., an amendment of the Convention or a new or amended annex) or an ambiguously termed, ‘agreed outcome with legal force’.164 It was agreed that this new instrument or outcome should be adopted by 2015 at the latest for it to come into effect and be implemented from 2020. This creates a window of reform opportunity for ocean acidification, or any other related matters, to be integrated into the UNFCCC framework.

For addressing ocean acidification effectively, an amendment to the Convention text itself might be desirable (i.e., ‘another legal instrument’), given its uncertain mandate on the problem of ocean acidification. An amendment of the Convention would involve restructuring the UNFCCC towards regulating dangerous anthropogenic interference to the global carbon cycle, which is what is fundamentally needed for addressing both climate change and ocean acidification simultaneously. At the very least, an amended convention needs to impose on its parties the duty not to resolve the climate change problem by transferring harm or hazards from one area or medium to another or transforming one type of environmental harm to another.165

For any outcome of the Durban Platform, whether it is an amended convention or a new protocol, two elements would be essential for addressing ocean acidification. First, it needs to contain a separate target for CO2 emission reductions.166 This would not require an amendment to the UNFCCC as that would leave the details of how greenhouse gas emissions should be regulated to be decided in the implementing agreement. In fact, for the purpose of establishing a mandatory target for emissions reduction of CO2, a new annex to the UNFCCC could suffice. Second, the emissions reduction target for the atmospheric concentration of CO2 must be set at a level that would avoid dangerous ocean change. The forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,167 which is expected to include a dedicated chapter on ocean acidification, should inform what that level might be, as well as the work of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services.

REGULATING CARBON EMISSIONS UNDER THE LAW OF THE SEA FRAMEWORK

The second possibility is to address ocean acidification through an implementing agreement on land-based sources of marine pollution (LBSMP) to UNCLOS. Ocean acidification is caused mostly by land-based activities that pollute the marine environment, mostly beyond national jurisdictions, through the atmosphere. Albeit aspirational,168 UNCLOS does provide a general legal framework for regulating ocean acidification.

General principles and management approaches to LBSMP control are prescribed in the Global Programme of Action to Protect the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA).169 However, the role of the GPA in studying and addressing ocean acidification (and climate change) remains uncertain. This is not only because its effectiveness is inherently limited by its non-legally binding approach,170 but also because carbon emissions from land-based sources are not included in its nine source categories. Other than a mention of the UNFCCC as one of the MEAs important for the protection of the marine environment, the GPA has been more or less silent about ocean acidification as well as climate change.171

Although the likelihood that the GPA will be translated into treaty form does not appear promising,172 the need for a stronger LBSMP regime cannot be argued away. The advantage of regulating carbon emissions under the law of the sea framework is that States could exploit largely untapped potential of the strongly worded environmental provisions of UNCLOS, as well as its dispute settlement regime.173 In a previous study, Hassan recommended essential components for a global LBSMP treaty.174 In addition to those components, CO2 emissions from point and non-point sources, as one of the LBSMP categories, need to be regulated with emissions reduction targets set with the aim of avoiding dangerous ocean acidification. For this, the landward and geographical scope must expand beyond river basins, as typically found in the regional LBMSP protocols. Although limited in scope to one type of LBSMP, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants175 has demonstrated the possibility of regulating land-based marine pollution through the atmosphere on a global scale.

A global LBSMP treaty should aspire to provide a comprehensive framework, the first of its kind, to cross the rigid jurisdictional divide between the land and the sea or the areas of and beyond national jurisdiction. This would be an example for the new approaches that Vidas argues that we need in the Anthropocene176 in order to deal with human impacts on the marine component of the Earth system as well as governing planetary boundary interactions between the marine component and the rest of the Earth system.177

IMPLICATIONS OF OVERLAP WITH THE CLIMATE REGIME

A case for adopting a new MEA on ocean acidification under the UNCLOS framework would have to justify having two treaty regimes regulating CO2 emissions, which may well be ‘superfluous [and] confusing’.178 One can only speculate on whether the relationship will engender healthy competition or result in unnecessary overlap and conflicts. Here, I focus on the positive side. First, a parallel regime under UNCLOS could provide an opportunity for States to seek out the forum most favourable to their interests.179 Some degree of institutional diversification is arguably necessary to engage all countries with different interests and capabilities. Second, a parallel regime could reduce climate policy externalities. Arguably, the UNFCCC has grown too big and powerful, scoping the entire Earth system, as countless issues are closely linked to a changing climate. The UNFCCC is increasingly creating perverse outcomes for these climate-related issues, but currently no other treaty regime has the capacity to seriously challenge that. A matching MEA on ocean acidification could keep the UNFCCC in check. Third, a new MEA could reduce the risk of policy failure by helping to diversify the portfolio of CO2 emission reduction efforts. The new wave of Earth system governance scholars agrees that institutional diversity and redundancy are not necessarily bad for a resilient governing system.180

It is also worth noting that having multiple regimes regulating greenhouse gases is not totally new. The broader regime complex for climate change already exists.181 This complex includes the efforts to phase out hydrochlorofluorocarbons through the Montreal Protocol,182 the recent discussions of black carbon in the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution,183 and the work on emissions from international transport in the IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization. Non-CO2 emissions are increasingly being regulated outside of the UNFCCC by these more specialized regimes, and this in turn may free up space for the UNFCCC to focus on CO2.184

CONCLUSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: A PLANETARY BOUNDARY
  5. IS THE CLIMATE REGIME CAPABLE OF ADDRESSING OCEAN ACIDIFICATION?
  6. APPLICABILITY AND RESPONSES OF OTHER MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS RELEVANT TO OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
  7. AN ASSESSMENT OF EMERGING POLYCENTRIC PATTERNS OF OCEAN ACIDIFICATION GOVERNANCE
  8. BRINGING LIGHT TO THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TWILIGHT ZONE
  9. CONCLUSION

Ocean acidification is a global-scale, environmental change problem with far-reaching consequences in multiple dimensions. From a governance perspective, ocean acidification is unique in that it shares a common cause with climate change, but creates a concurrent problem that may not necessarily be addressed by focusing solely on mitigating climate change. It sits within a very complex institutional landscape, at a rather cracked interface between the climate, biodiversity and oceans regimes. The CBD and UNCLOS are the principal MEAs mandated to protect the marine environment and its biodiversity, but they do not regulate atmospheric CO2 emissions. The UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol do not have the jurisdiction or the clear mandate to prevent ocean acidification. Other MEAs express their concerns to the extent that the acidifying oceans pose a threat to achieving their mandates, but they are without remedy.

Some degree of emerging polycentric order for governing ocean acidification has been observed. However, the level of institutional interactions among the MEAs has been minimal without exhibiting self-organizing behaviour. While a model of polycentric governance has merits, its weaknesses such as those empirically observed in this study in the context of ocean acidification also need to be scrutinized before we adopt polycentrism as a normative model for global environmental governance. The MEA system, in its current position in the evolutionary path, is inherently limited in its ability to foster mutual adjustments among MEAs. This is due in part to the unsettled normative conflict between the principle of respecting the legal autonomy of the treaties and the duty not to transfer or transform environmental harm in international environmental law. In particular, the possibility of a strong polycentric order at the institutional landscape level is constrained by the underlying structural features of the climate regime, which takes advantage of ocean acidification in mitigating climate change. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that an emerging regime complex of MEAs will adequately address ocean acidification in the near future.

Ocean acidification is too important and rapidly occurring to be left to the self-organization of MEAs (and other international actors). It will simply be too late to save the oceans and the wider ecological integrity. Ocean acidification requires a conscious intervention and I suggest that this involves establishing a new MEA with a clear mandate on ocean acidification. This intervention may well form part of an adaptive process that enhances the fit between the Earth system and international environmental law, and thus strengthens the polycentric order.

Rakhyun E. Kim is a PhD scholar (BSc, MSc, MEL (First Class Honours)) in the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University. He is also a Research Fellow with the Earth System Governance Project, a researcher at the ANU Climate Change Institute, and a member of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law. This article is based on a presentation delivered at the ‘Planet Under Pressure’ conference in London in March 2012. The author thanks Brendan Mackey, Xuemei Bai, Harro van Asselt, Carol Turley, Ian Fry, Suh-Yong Chung, Keith Reid, Chris Vivian, Aline Kuehl, Shinichi Suzuki, Pilar Pallares, Sue Holzknecht, Julie Watson and an anonymous reviewer for their contributions in the writing of this article.

Footnotes
  • 1

    S.C. Doney et al., ‘Ocean Acidification: The Other CO2 Problem’, 1 Annual Review of Marine Science (2009), 169, at 169.

  • 2

    D. Archer et al., ‘Atmospheric Lifetime of Fossil Fuel Carbon Dioxide’, 37 Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences (2009), 117.

  • 3

    R.E. Zeebe et al., ‘Carbon Emissions and Acidification’, 321:5885 Science (2008), 51.

  • 4

    K. Caldeira and M.E. Wickett, ‘Anthropogenic Carbon and Ocean pH’, 425:6956 Nature (2003), 365.

  • 5

    J.-P. Gattuso et al., ‘Ocean Acidification: Knowns, Unknowns and Perspectives’, in: J.-P. Gattuso and L. Hansson (eds.), Ocean Acidification (Oxford University Press, 2011), 291.

  • 6

    J. Rockström et al., ‘A Safe Operating Space for Humanity’, 461:7263 Nature (2009), 472.

  • 7

    R. Baird, M. Simons and T. Stephens, ‘Ocean Acidification: A Litmus Test for International Law’, 3:4 Carbon and Climate Law Review (2009), 459, at 460.

  • 8

    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (New York, 9 May 1992; in force 21 March 1994) (‘UNFCCC’).

  • 9

    Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto, 11 December 1997; in force 16 February 2005) (‘Kyoto Protocol’).

  • 10

    E.R. Harrould-Kolieb and D. Herr, ‘Ocean Acidification and Climate Change: Synergies and Challenges of Addressing Both under the UNFCCC’, 12:3 Climate Policy (2012), 378.

  • 11

    See D. Archer et al., n. 2 above.

  • 12

    Ibid.

  • 13

    M.Z. Jacobson, ‘Studying Ocean Acidification with Conservative, Stable Numerical Schemes for Nonequilibrium Air-ocean Exchange and Ocean Equilibrium Chemistry’, 110 Journal of Geophysical Research (2005), D07302.

  • 14

    See R.E. Zeebe et al., n. 3 above.

  • 15

    R.P. Kelly et al., ‘Mitigating Local Causes of Ocean Acidification with Existing Laws’, 332:6033 Science (2011), 1036.

  • 16

    R.E. Zeebe, ‘History of Seawater Carbonate Chemistry, Atmospheric CO2 and Ocean Acidification’, 40 Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences (2011), 141; R.E. Zeebe and A. Ridgwell, ‘Past Changes of Ocean Carbonate Chemistry’, in: J.-P. Gattuso and L. Hansson, n. 5 above, 21.

  • 17

    K.J. Kroeker et al., ‘Meta-analysis Reveals Negative Yet Variable Effects of Ocean Acidification on Marine Organisms’, 13:11 Ecology Letters (2010), 1419.

  • 18

    U. Riebesell et al., ‘Reduced Calcification of Marine Plankton in Response to Increased Atmospheric CO2, 407:6802 Nature (2000), 364; J.C. Orr et al., ‘Anthropogenic Ocean Acidification over the Twenty-first Century and Its Impact on Calcifying Organisms’, 437:7059 Nature (2005), 681; O. Hoegh-Guldberg et al., ‘Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification’, 318:5857 Science (2007), 1737;V.J. Fabry et al., ‘Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Fauna and Ecosystem Processes’, 65:3 ICES Journal of Marine Science (2008), 414.

  • 19

    P.W. Boyd, ‘Beyond Ocean Acidification’, 4:5 Nature Geoscience (2011), 273; M. Gehlen et al., ‘Biogeochemical Consequences of Ocean Acidification and Feedbacks to the Earth System’, in: J.-P. Gattuso and L. Hansson, n. 5 above, 230.

  • 20

    United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), Ocean Acidification: A Hidden Risk for Sustainable Development, Policy Brief (UN-DESA, 2009).

  • 21

    C. Turley and K. Boot, Environmental Consequences of Ocean Acidification: A Threat to Food Security (United Nations Environment Programme, 2010).

  • 22

    C. Turley et al., ‘The Societal Challenge of Ocean Acidification’, 60:6 Marine Pollution Bulletin (2010), 787; C. Turley and K. Boot, ‘The Ocean Acidification Challenges Facing Science and Society’, in: J.-P. Gattuso and L. Hansson, n. 5 above, 249.

  • 23

    See J. Rockström et al., n. 6 above.

  • 24

    L. Cao and K. Caldeira, ‘Can Ocean Iron Fertilization Mitigate Ocean Acidification?’, 99:1–2 Climatic Change (2010), 303.

  • 25

    K. Caldeira and P.B. Duffy, ‘The Role of the Southern Ocean in Uptake and Storage of Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide’, 287:5453 Science (2000), 620.

  • 26

    P. Williamson and C. Turley, ‘Ocean Acidification in a Geoengineering Context’, 370:1974 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A (2012), 4317.

  • 27

    Ibid.; L.D.D. Harvey, ‘Mitigating the Atmospheric CO2 Increase and Ocean Acidification by Adding Limestone Powder to Upwelling Regions’, 113 Journal of Geophysical Research (2008), C04028.

  • 28

    J.C. Orr, ‘Recent and Future Changes in Ocean Carbonate Chemistry’, in: J.-P. Gattuso and L. Hansson, n. 5 above, 41.

  • 29

    Royal Society, Ocean Acidification Due to Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (Royal Society, 2005); German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), The Future Oceans: Warming Up, Rising High, Turning Sour (WBGU, 2006); InterAcademy Panel (IAP), Statement on Ocean Acidification (IAP, 2009); Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), Scientific Synthesis of the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity (SCBD, 2009).

  • 30

    J.E.N. Veron et al., ‘The Coral Reef Crisis: The Critical Importance of < 350 ppm CO2, 58:10 Marine Pollution Bulletin (2009), 1428.

  • 31

    B.I. McNeil and R.J. Matear, ‘Southern Ocean Acidification: A Tipping Point at 450-ppm Atmospheric CO2, 105:48 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2008), 18860.

  • 32

    See O. Hoegh-Guldberg et al., n. 18 above.

  • 33

    See E.R. Harrould-Kolieb and D. Herr, n. 10 above, at 2.

  • 34

    See WBGU, n. 29 above.

  • 35

    UNFCCC, n. 8 above, Article 1.3.

  • 36

    Kyoto Protocol, n. 9 above, Article 3.1.

  • 37

    See R. Baird, M. Simons and T. Stephens, n. 7 above.

  • 38

    Ibid.

  • 39

    UNFCCC, n. 8 above, Article 4.1(d); Kyoto Protocol, n. 9 above, Article 2.1(a)(ii).

  • 40

    See R. Baird, M. Simons and T. Stephens, n. 7 above. For discussions on the UNFCCC's position with regard to ocean iron fertilization, see D. Freestone and R. Rayfuse, ‘Ocean Iron Fertilization and International Law’, 364 Marine Ecology Progress Series (2008), 227; B. Walker et al., ‘Looming Global-scale Failures and Missing Institutions’, 325:5946 Science (2009), 1345.

  • 41

    UNFCCC, n. 8 above, at Preamble (see also Article 3.3).

  • 42

    Ibid., Articles 1.2 and 2.

  • 43

    Ibid., Article 1.1.

  • 44

    Ibid., Article 1.2.

  • 45

    See R. Baird, M. Simons and T. Stephens, n. 7 above.

  • 46

    UNFCCC, n. 8 above, Article 2 (emphasis added).

  • 47

    See R. Baird, M. Simons and T. Stephens, n. 7 above.

  • 48

    See WBGU, n. 29 above.

  • 49

    See C. Turley and K. Boot, n. 22 above.

  • 50

    Decision 1/CP.16, The Cancun Agreements: Outcome of the Work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1, 15 March 2011), at paragraph 25.

  • 51

    Ibid.

  • 52

    See E.R. Harrould-Kolieb and D. Herr, n. 10 above, at 381.

  • 53

    See, e.g., Summary of Proposed Themes for the Research Dialogue Meeting and the Related Workshop to be Held in Conjunction with SBSTA 34 (UN Doc. FCCC/SBSTA/2011/INF.1, 5 May 2011), at paragraph 24(b).

  • 54

    On the concept of ‘regime complex’, see K. Raustiala and D.G. Victor, ‘The Regime Complex for Plant Genetic Resources’, 58:2 International Organization (2004), 277; R.O. Keohane and D.G. Victor, ‘The Regime Complex for Climate Change’, 9:1 Perspectives on Politics (2011), 7.

  • 55

    United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay, 10 December 1982; in force 16 November 1994) (‘UNCLOS’).

  • 56

    Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNGA Resolution A/RES/55/7, 27 February 2001); Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNGA Resolution A/RES/65/37, 17 March 2011).

  • 57

    UNCLOS, n. 55 above, at Preamble.

  • 58

    Ibid., Article 1.1(4).

  • 59

    For similar arguments made in the context of climate change, see M. Doelle, ‘Climate Change and the Use of the Dispute Settlement Regime of the Law of the Sea Convention’, 37:3–4 Ocean Development and International Law (2006), 319; W.C.G. Burns, ‘Potential Causes of Action for Climate Change Damages in International Fora: The Law of the Sea Convention’, 2:1 McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy (2006), 27.

  • 60

    UNCLOS, n. 55 above, Article 192.

  • 61

    Ibid., Article 194.5.

  • 62

    Ibid., Article 194.

  • 63

    Ibid., Article 212.

  • 64

    Implications of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for the International Maritime Organization (IMO Doc. LEG/MISC.7, 19 January 2012), at 8.

  • 65

    Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNGA Resolution A/RES/61/222, 16 March 2007), at Preamble.

  • 66

    Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNGA Resolution A/RES/63/111, 12 February 2009), at Preamble.

  • 67

    Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNGA Resolution A/RES/62/215, 14 March 2008), at paragraph 81.

  • 68

    UNGA Resolution A/RES/63/111, n. 66 above, at paragraph 99.

  • 69

    Convention on Biological Diversity (Rio de Janeiro, 5 June 1992; in force 29 December 1993) (‘CBD’).

  • 70
  • 71

    Decision IX/16, Biodiversity and Climate Change (UN Doc. UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/IX/16, 9 October 2008), at paragraph 3; Decision IX/20, (Marine and Coastal Biodiversity (UN Doc. UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/IX/20, 9 October 2008), at paragraph 4.

  • 72

    See SCBD, n. 29 above.

  • 73

    Decision X/13, New and Emerging Issues (UN Doc. UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/X/13, 29 October 2010), at paragraph 2(a).

  • 74

    Decision X/29, Marine and Coastal Biodiversity (UN Doc. UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/X/29, 29 October 2010), at paragraphs 13(d) and 64.

  • 75

    Ibid., at paragraph 13(b).

  • 76

    Ibid., at paragraph 65.

  • 77

    Decision X/2, The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (UN Doc. UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/X/2, 29 October 2010), at paragraph 13.

  • 78

    M. Chandler, ‘The Biodiversity Convention: Selected Issues of Interest to the International Lawyer’, 4:1 Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy (1993), 141; D.M. McGraw, ‘The CBD: Key Characteristics and Implications for Implementation’, 11:1 Review of European Community and International Environmental Law (2002), 17; E. Morgera and E. Tsioumani, ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Looking Afresh at the Convention on Biological Diversity’, 21 Yearbook of International Environmental Law (2010), 3.

  • 79

    Decision X/29, n. 74 above, at paragraph 67.

  • 80

    Ibid., at paragraph 66; Decision IX/16, n. 71 above, at paragraph 3.

  • 81

    Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar, 2 February 1971; in force 21 December 1975).

  • 82

    Antarctic Treaty (Washington, DC, 1 December 1959; in force 23 June 1961).

  • 83

    Decision X/29, n. 74 above, at paragraph 66. See also Decision X/33, Biodiversity and Climate Change (UN Doc. UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/X/33, 29 October 2010), at paragraph 8(a).

  • 84

    Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (New York, 4 December 1995; in force 11 December 2001)

  • 85

    Report of the Resumed Review Conference on the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UN Doc. A/CONF.210/2010/7, 27 July 2010).

  • 86

    Personal communication with Deputy Executive Secretary of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (20 July 2011); personal communication with Assistant Executive Secretary of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (25 July 2011).

  • 87

    Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London, 13 November 1972; in force 30 August 1975).

  • 88

    1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (London, 7 November 1996; in force 24 March 2006).

  • 89

    UNCLOS, n. 55 above, Articles 210.4, 210.6 and 216.1.

  • 90

    Report of the Twenty-sixth Consultative Meeting (IMO Doc. LC 26/15, 17 December 2004), at paragraph 6.30.2.

  • 91

    Report of the CO2 Working Group (IMO Doc. LC/SG/28/WP.7, 25 May 2005).

  • 92

    Report of the Twenty-eighth Meeting of the Scientific Group (IMO Doc. LC/SG 28/14, 11 July 2005).

  • 93

    Resolution LP.1(1), On the Amendment to Include CO2 Sequestration in Sub-seabed Geological Formations in Annex 1 to the London Protocol (IMO Doc. LC 28/15, 6 December 2006). For a detailed account, see J. Penca, ‘The 2006 “CO2 Sequestration” Amendment to the 1996 London Protocol’, 24:4 International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law (2009), 713.

  • 94

    Reports of First, Second and Third Meetings of the London Protocol Intersessional Legal and Related Issues Working Group on Ocean Fertilization (IMO Doc. LP/CO2 2/5, 20 February 2009; IMO Doc. LP CO2 3/7, 19 March 2010; LC 33/4, 20 June 2011) have not mentioned ocean acidification.

  • 95

    Report of the Thirty-second Consultative Meeting and the Fifth Meeting of Contracting Parties (LC 32/15, 9 November 2010), Annex 6: Assessment Framework for Scientific Research Involving Ocean Fertilization, at paragraphs 3.4.2.2.4 and 3.5.2.2.1.

  • 96

    International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as Modified by the Protocol of 1978 Relating Thereto and by the Protocol of 1997 (London, 2 November 1973; in force 2 October 1983 (1978 Protocol), 19 May 2005 (1997 Protocol)).

  • 97

    Kyoto Protocol, n. 9 above, Article 2.2.

  • 98
  • 99

    International Maritime Organization (IMO), Study of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships (IMO, 2000); IMO, Second IMO GHG Study 2009 (IMO, 2009).

  • 100

    Report of the Marine Environment Protection Committee on Its Sixtieth Session (IMO Doc. MEPC 60/22, 12 April 2010), at paragraph 4.28.

  • 101

    Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-east Atlantic (Paris, 22 September 1992; in force 25 March 1998) (‘OSPAR Convention’).

  • 102

    Agreement 2007–12, OSPAR Guidelines for Risk Assessment and Management of Storage of CO2 Streams in Geological Formations (Reference number: 07–12).

  • 103

    Ibid.; Decision 2007/2, OSPAR Decision 2007/2 on the Storage of Carbon Dioxide Streams in Geological Formations (OSPAR 07/24/1-E, Annex 6 (Ref. §2.10c), 25–29 June 2007).

  • 104

    Decision 2007/1, OSPAR Decision 2007/1 to Prohibit the Storage of Carbon Dioxide Streams in the Water Column or on the Sea-bed (OSPAR 07/24/1-E, Annex 5 (Ref. §2.9b), 25–29 June 2007).

  • 105

    Agreement 2010–3, Strategy of the OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-east Atlantic 2010–2020 (Reference number: 10–03). See also Recommendation 2010/8, Furthering the Protection and Restoration of Lophelia Pertusa Reefs in the OSPAR Maritime Area (OSPAR 10/23/1-E, Annex 30); Recommendation 2010/9, Furthering the Protection and Restoration of Coral Gardens in the OSPAR Maritime Area (OSPAR 10/23/1-E, Annex 31); Recommendation 2010/10, Furthering the Protection and Restoration of Deep-sea Sponge Aggregations in the OSPAR Maritime Area (OSPAR 10/23/1-E, Annex 32).

  • 106

    Agreement 2010–3, n. 105 above, at paragraph 2.2.

  • 107

    Ibid., at paragraph 4.4(f).

  • 108

    Ibid., at paragraph 1.7.

  • 109

    Agreement 2011–4, Terms of Reference of OSPAR Committees (OSPAR 11/20/1, Annex 21).

  • 110

    Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid, 4 October 1991; in force 14 January 1998), Article 2.

  • 111

    Final Report of the Thirty-second Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty, 2009), at paragraph 241.

  • 112

    See B.I. McNeil and R.J. Matear, n. 31 above; S. Kawaguchi et al., ‘Will Krill Fare Well under Southern Ocean Acidification?’, 7:2 Biology Letters (2011), 288.

  • 113

    Antarctic Treaty, n. 82 above, Article VI.

  • 114

    J. Turner et al. (eds.), Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, 2009), at 367.

  • 115

    Co-Chairs' Report from Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts on Implications of Climate Change for Antarctic Management and Governance (Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts, 2010), at paragraph 131.

  • 116

    Decision 8, Letter to UNFCCC (Report of ATCM XXXIII, 17 April 2009).

  • 117

    Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (Canberra, 20 May 1980; in force 7 April 1982)

  • 118

    See S. Kawaguchi et al., n. 112 above; Report of the Thirtieth Meeting of the Commission (SC-CAMLR-XXX, 24 October–4 November 2011), at paragraph 8.1.

  • 119

    Report of the Twenty-sixth Meeting of the Commission (CCAMLR-XXVI, 22 October–2 November 2007), at paragraph 15.49.

  • 120

    Report of the Twenty-ninth Meeting of the Commission (CCAMLR-XXIX, 25 October–5 November 2010), at paragraph 13.8.

  • 121

    Ibid.

  • 122

    V. Galaz et al., ‘Polycentric Systems and Interacting Planetary Boundaries: Emerging Governance of Climate Change-Ocean Acidification-Marine Biodiversity’, 81 Ecological Economics (2012), 21.

  • 123

    Background Document to an Expert Meeting to Develop a Series of Joint Expert Review Processes to Monitor and Assess the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity (UN Doc. UNEP/CBD/EM-IOAMCB/1/2, 10 October 2011), at 31.

  • 124

    Ibid. For discussions on the interplay of the climate and biodiversity agreements, see F. Jacquemont and A. Caparrós, ‘The Convention on Biological Diversity and the Climate Change Convention 10 Years after Rio: Towards a Synergy of the Two Regimes?’, 11:2 Review of European Community and International Environmental Law (2002), 169; M. Doelle, ‘Linking the Kyoto Protocol and Other Multilateral Environmental Agreements: From Fragmentation to Integration?’, 14 Journal of Environmental Law and Practice (2004), 75; H. van Asselt, F. Sindico and M.A. Mehling, ‘Global Climate Change and the Fragmentation of International Law’, 30:4 Law and Policy (2008), 423; C.P. Carlarne, ‘Good Climate Governance: Only a Fragmented System of International Law Away?’, 30:4 Law and Policy (2008), 450; J. Pittock, ‘A Pale Reflection of Political Reality: Integration of Global Climate, Wetland and Biodiversity Agreements’, 1:3 Climate Law (2010), 343; E. Morgera, ‘Faraway, So Close: A Legal Analysis of the Increasing Interactions between the Convention on Biological Diversity and Climate Change Law’, 2:1 Climate Law (2011), 85; and H. van Asselt, ‘Managing the Fragmentation of International Environmental Law: Forests at the Intersection of the Climate and Biodiversity Regimes’, 44:4 New York University Journal of International Law and Politics (2012), 1205.

  • 125

    Decision IX/16, n. 71 above, at Section C.

  • 126

    Decision X/33, n. 83 above, at paragraph 8(w).

  • 127

    See E. Morgera and E. Tsioumani, n. 78 above; E. Morgera, n. 124 above.

  • 128

    R. Wolfrum and N. Matz, ‘The Interplay of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Convention on Biological Diversity’, 4 Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law (2000), 445.

  • 129

    UNCLOS, n. 55 above, Article 194.5.

  • 130

    CBD, n. 69 above, Article 4.

  • 131

    The Future We Want (UN Doc. A/66/L.56, 24 July 2012), at paragraph 162.

  • 132

    Report on the Work of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea at Its Eleventh Meeting (UN Doc. A/65/164, 23 July 2010), at paragraph 90; D. Diz et al., Summary of the Resumed Review Conference of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement: 24–28 May 2010, 7 Earth Negotiations Bulletin (2010), 1, at 7.

  • 133

    Report on the Work of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea at Its Twelfth Meeting (UN Doc. A/66/186, 25 July 2011), at paragraph 58.

  • 134

    UNGA Resolution A/RES/62/215, n. 67 above, at paragraph 83.

  • 135

    See C.P. Carlarne, n. 124 above, at 463. For further discussions on the relationship between UNFCCC and UNCLOS, see M. Doelle, n. 59 above; and W.C.G. Burns, n. 59 above.

  • 136

    See H. van Asselt, n. 124 above, at 1265–1266.

  • 137

    A similar example is found in K. Bull, R. Hoft and M.A. Sutton, ‘Coordinating European Nitrogen Policies between International Conventions and Intergovernmental Organizations’, in: M.A. Sutton et al. (eds.), The European Nitrogen Assessment (Cambridge University Press, 2011), at 577.

  • 138

    Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn, 23 June 1979; in force 1 November 1983).

  • 139

    Personal communication with UNEP/CMS Associate Scientific and Technical Officer (17 August 2011).

  • 140

    H.R. Lamirande, ‘From Sea to Carbon Cesspool: Preventing the World's Marine Ecosystems from Falling Victim to Ocean Acidification’, 34:1 Suffolk Transnational Law Review (2011), 183, at 205. For discussions on the evolutionary nature of the CBD, see E. Morgera and E. Tsioumani, n. 78 above.

  • 141

    W.B. Chambers, Interlinkages and the Effectiveness of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (United Nations University Press, 2008), at 7.

  • 142

    See E.R. Harrould-Kolieb and D. Herr, n. 10 above.

  • 143

    R.E. Kim, ‘The Emergent Network Structure of the Multilateral Environmental Agreement System’ (unpublished manuscript under review with Global Environmental Change).

  • 144

    ‘A Constitution for the Oceans’, Remarks by Tommy T.B. Koh, of Singapore, President of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, found at: <http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/koh_english.pdf>.

  • 145

    London Protocol, n. 88 above, Article 1.10; OSPAR Convention, n. 101 above, Article 1(d).

  • 146

    Report of the Marine Environment Protection Committee on Its Sixtieth Session (IMO Doc. MEPC 60/22, 12 April 2010), n. 100 above, at paragraph 4.29.

  • 147

    See P. Williamson and C. Turley, n. 26 above; and L. Cao and K. Caldeira, n. 24 above.

  • 148

    R. Purdy, ‘The Legal Implications of Carbon Capture and Storage under the Sea’, 7:1 Sustainable Development Law and Policy (2006), 22.

  • 149

    Report of the Twenty-sixth Consultative Meeting, n. 90 above, at paragraph 6.33.

  • 150

    See, e.g., Decision X/29, Marine and Coastal Biodiversity (UN Doc. UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/X/29, 29 October 2010), n. 74 above, at paragraph 7; Recommendation XIV/9, Examination of the Outcome-oriented Goals and Targets (and Associated Indicators) and Consideration of Their Possible Adjustment for the Period beyond 2010 (UN Doc. UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/REC/XIV/9, 30 June 2010), at 10.

  • 151

    J. Brunnée and A. Nollkaemper, ‘Between the Forests and the Trees: An Emerging International Forest Law’, 23:4 Environmental Conservation (1996), 307.

  • 152

    CBD, n. 69 above, Preamble (affirming that conservation of biological diversity is a common concern of humankind).

  • 153

    J. Brunnèe and A. Nollkaemper, n. 151 above.

  • 154

    A. Caparrós and F. Jacquemont, ‘Conflicts between Biodiversity and Carbon Sequestration Programs: Economics and Legal Implications’, 46:143 Ecological Economics (2003), 143; M. Totten, S.I. Pandya and T. Janson-Smith, ‘Biodiversity, Climate and the Kyoto Protocol: Risks and Opportunities’, 1:5 Frontier in Ecology and the Environment (2003), 262; I. Sagemüller, ‘Forest Sinks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol: Opportunity or Risk for Biodiversity?’, 31:2 Columbia Journal of Environmental Law (2006), 189.

  • 155

    N. Sasaki and F.E. Putz, ‘Critical Need for New Definitions of “Forest” and “Forest Degradation” in Global Climate Change Agreements’, 2:5 Conservation Letters (2009), 226.

  • 156

    V. Galaz et al., ‘“Planetary Boundaries”: Exploring the Challenges for Global Environmental Governance’, 4:1 Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (2012), 80.

  • 157

    M. Nilsson and Å. Persson, ‘Can Earth System Interactions be Governed? Governance Functions for Linking Climate Change Mitigation with Land Use, Freshwater and Biodiversity Protection’, 81 Ecological Economics (2012), 10.

  • 158

    Multilateral Environmental Agreements: A Summary (UN Doc. UNEP/IGM/1/INF/1, 30 March 2001), at paragraph 42.

  • 159

    UNCLOS, n. 55 above, Article 195.

  • 160

    UNFCCC, n. 8 above, Article 1.1.

  • 161

    See H.R. Lamirande, n. 140 above, at 205.

  • 162

    See K. Raustiala and D.G. Victor, n. 54, above, at 301; R. Baird, M. Simons and T. Stephens, n. 7 above.

  • 163

    On the notion of ‘broadening’ and ‘deepening’ of MEA regimes, see D. Bodansky and E. Diringer, The Evolution of Multilateral Regimes: Implications for Climate Change (Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 2010).

  • 164

    Decision 1/CP.17, Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2011/9/Add.1, 15 March 2012), at paragraph 4. See also L. Rajamani, ‘The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action and the Future of the Climate Regime’, 61:2 International and Comparative Law Quarterly (2012), 501.

  • 165

    International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Draft International Covenant on Environment and Development, 4th edn (IUCN, 2010), at Article 17.

  • 166

    See R. Baird, M. Simons and T. Stephens, n. 7 above; E.R. Harrould-Kolieb and D. Herr, n. 10 above; H.R. Lamirande, n. 140 above; G. Galland, E. Harrould-Kolieb and D. Herr, ‘The Ocean and Climate Change Policy’, 12:6 Climate Policy (2012), 764.

  • 167

    Decision 1/CP.17, n. 164 above, at paragraph 6.

  • 168

    D.L. VanderZwaag and A. Powers, ‘The Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Pollution and Activities: Gauging the Tides of Global and Regional Governance’, 23:3 International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law (2008), 423.

  • 169

    Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (UN Doc. UNEP(OCA)/LBA/IG.2/7, 5 December 1995), at paragraphs 1, 21, 102 and 130.

  • 170

    See D.L. VanderZwaag and A. Powers, n. 168 above.

  • 171

    Ibid. But see Beijing Declaration on Furthering the implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (UN Doc. UNEP/GPA (e.g. same line, do not separate)/IGR.2/7 Annex V, 23 October 2006), at 24; and Manila Declaration on Furthering the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (UN Doc. UNEP/GPA/IGR.3/CRP.1/Rev.1, 26 January 2012), at 2.

  • 172

    D. VanderZwaag, ‘A Global Treaty to Address Land-based Sources of Marine Pollution’, 12:2 Ocean and Coastal Law Journal (2007), 355.

  • 173

    See M. Doelle, n. 59 above.

  • 174

    They are an environmental liability regime, development of detailed and enforceable pollution standards, and a specific dispute resolution procedure for land-based pollution conflicts. D. Hassan, Protecting the Marine Environment from Land-based Sources of Pollution: Towards Effective International Cooperation (Ashgate, 2006).

  • 175

    Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (Stockholm, 22 May 2001; in force 17 May 2004).

  • 176

    D. Vidas, ‘The Anthropocene and the International Law of the Sea’, 369:1938 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A (2011), 909 . On the concept of ‘the Anthropocene’, see W. Steffen, P.J. Crutzen and J.R. McNeill, ‘The Anthropocene: Are Humans now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?’, 36:8 Ambio (2007), 614.

  • 177

    Ibid.

  • 178

    See E.R. Harrould-Kolieb and D. Herr, n. 10 above, at 379.

  • 179

    For a case study of forum shopping, see A. Gillespie, ‘Forum Shopping in International Environmental Law: The IWC, CITES and the Management of Cetaceans’, 33:1 Ocean Development and International Law (2002), 17.

  • 180

    T. Dietz, E. Ostrom and P.C. Stern, ‘The Struggle to Govern the Commons’, 302:5652 Science (2003), 1907; B. Low et al., ‘Redundancy and Diversity: Do They Influence Optimal Management?’, in: F. Berkes, J. Colding and C. Folke (eds.), Navigating Social–Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change (Cambridge University Press, 2003), 83; E. Ostrom, Understanding Institutional Diversity (Princeton University Press, 2005); C. Folke et al., ‘Adaptive Governance of Social–Ecological Systems’, 30:441 Annual Review of Environment and Resources (2005), 441; E. Ostrom, ‘Polycentric Systems for Coping with Collective Action and Global Environmental Change’, 20:4 Global Environmental Change (2010), 550.

  • 181

    See R.O. Keohane and D.G. Victor, n. 54 above; and D. Bodansky and E. Diringer, n. 163 above.

  • 182

    Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal, 16 September 1987; in force 1 January 1989); G.J.M. Velders et al., ‘The Importance of the Montreal Protocol in Protecting Climate’, 104:12 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2007), 4814.

  • 183

    Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (Geneva, 13 November 1979; in force 16 March 1983); Decision 2009/5, Establishment of an Ad Hoc Expert Group on Black Carbon (UN Doc. ECE/EB.AIR/99/ADD.1, 18 December 2009).

  • 184

    See D. Bodansky and E. Diringer, n. 163 above; E.R. Harrould-Kolieb and D. Herr, n. 10 above.