Governing Ocean Acidification: Framing an Emergent Issue Across Existing Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Governing Ocean Acidification: Framing an Emergent Issue Across Existing Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 - 11:00am to 12:00pm

Ocean acidification is increasingly recognized as a potentially devastating threat to marine ecosystems and the goods and services they provide. Despite this, no existing multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) explicitly requires a response to it and the issue remains largely unaddressed in international environmental law and policy. The problem of ocean acidification does not sit comfortably within the mandate of any existing MEA, especially in regard to its mitigation. Many scholars and practitioners have sought to address ocean acidification under existing agreements largely via proposals for treaty amendments or the conclusion of new legal instruments, such as implementing agreements or protocols. Implementation of these proposals has been limited. 

Through my PhD I established an alternative approach to expanding the MEA governance of ocean acidification by exploring the role that problem framing can play in situating ocean acidification within existing MEA mandates. I contend that the current framing of ocean acidification as a CO2 problem, concurrent to climate change has resulted in the problem being regarded as predominantly outside the mandates of most MEAs, thereby narrowing the scope of responses available and creating significant gaps in the ocean acidification governance architecture. 

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, I analyzed the applicability of existing treaty texts to various problem frames (treaty interpretation) and compared their capacity to respond to ocean acidification against an idealized version of ocean acidification governance (gap-analysis). I argue that the utilization of alternative problem frames can situate the issue more effectively within existing MEA mandates, thereby opening up response options without the need for the development of new legal instruments.

PDF icon Download slides
Event Location: 
Australian-German Climate and Energy College,
Level 1, 187 Grattan Street
3010 Parkville , VIC
PhD candidate, School of Geography, the University of Melbourne

Until early 2011, Ellycia worked a Marine Scientist, with Oceana – the world’s largest marine conservation organization. As part of the Climate Change and Clean Energy team in their Washington DC headquarters, Ellycia played a significant role in communicating and translating information about climate change and ocean acidification to policy makers and the general public, in an effort to raise awareness about their impacts and advocate for policy creation to protect the oceans and those that depend on them. While with Oceana Ellycia authored multiple reports and publications and presented at various conferences and fora, including at side-events at the UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen and Cancun, at which she was head of Oceana’s delegation. Ellycia holds a Masters of Environment from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science from Monash University. She has also spent time studying at the University of California, Berkeley and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Web tools and Projects we developed

  • Open-NEM

    The live tracker of the Australian electricity market.

  • Paris Equity Check

    This website is based on a Nature Climate Change study that compares Nationally Determined Contributions with equitable national emissions trajectories in line with the five categories of equity outlined by the IPCC.

  • liveMAGICC Climate Model

    Run one of the most popular reduced-complexity climate carbon cycle models online. Used by IPCC, UNEP GAP reports and numerous scientific publications.

  • NDC & INDC Factsheets

    Check out our analysis of all the post-2020 targets that countries announced under the Paris Agreement.