IUCN releases new guidance document on ocean acidification policy and governance options

03 July 2014 | Downloads - publication

IUCN has today released a guidance document to help conservation professionals better understanding the ocean acidification policy and governance landscape. The publication also issues recommendations on how this important issue can better be tackled collaboratively at an international level.

Ocean acidification may come to be understood as one of the most serious human-caused threats to endanger our ocean; a threat that, like climate change, is a result of ongoing burning of fossil fuels and emissions from land-use changes. As the carbon dioxide (CO2) level in the atmosphere rises, an increasing amount of the gas is absorbed by the ocean, causing a profound change in its chemistry by making it more acidic. Existing treaties appear ill-equipped to address the ever growing problem of ocean acidification. Both the academic challenge as well as the practical urgency to find solutions to ocean acidification within the broader field of environmental law and governance has spurred some initial analysis on this topic. This new IUCN report – Ocean acidification: International policy and governance options – contributes to the growing literature and discussion concerned with the performance and transformational need of ocean governance and policies, and the need to fully incorporate ocean acidification into other pertinent environmental, social and economic deliberations towards a sustainable, low-carbon society. To date, ocean acidification has not been explicitly included in the mandate of any international treaty, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Several international agreements and institutions have however begun to address it in various ways. Ocean acidification has been primarily included in general calls for concern, and considered through the scientific arms of various conventions and frameworks. This report further outlines significant policy gaps and possible avenues for remedying the deficiencies in the current governance of ocean acidification. Some reflections on how to strengthen and better inter-link between existing international instruments and possible ways forward are provided.