Headline: Oceans and Arctic

Global change processes induce a multitude of hazards and challenges for the oceans and entire regions such as the Arctic. Overfishing, pollution, climate change, or the destruction of natural habitats have severely harmed nearly half of the world's oceans. If we are to prevent the collapse of marine environments, this decline in ocean health must come to an end or, even better, be reversed. Ensuring that oceans, coastlines and sensitive regions are managed sustainably requires effective mechanisms to govern and regulate human activities that impact on ecosystems and resources.

The existing frameworks for ocean governance are inadequate in many respects:

Measures adopted by individual states to foster sustainable practices have a limited impact due to the transboundary nature of marine ecosystems, fisheries, energy development and pollution. This situation is compounded by a frequent lack of coordination in activities and policy objectives across different sectors. Efforts to protect the high seas, for example, have been hampered by gaps in the relevant legal and institutional frameworks. Regional governance frameworks can complement existing global instruments and help to overcome sectoral and institutional fragmentation.

Global warming and advances in technology pose new challenges to the governance of the oceans and entire regions. As natural resources located in previously remote regions are becoming increasingly accessible, the pressure increases to open these areas to development and resource extraction activities.

In an effort to promote the sustainable use of marine and energy resources and the protection of oceans and coasts, the IASS evaluates existing governance approaches for the oceans and regions such as the Western Indian Ocean or the Arctic. The IASS supports ongoing transformation processes with a focus on ocean and regional governance, and in cooperation with partners from science, policy-making, and civil society, develops solutions for critical sustainability challenges. Our research efforts in this field address a range of questions relating to policy-development processes involving political institutions and legal frameworks located at national, regional, and global levels: What models of regional and cross-sectoral ocean governance have the capacity to deliver sustainable outcomes? What ecological safeguards should be implemented around deep seabed mining or Arctic energy and transport development? How can ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction be protected? Which stakeholders and interest groups should be involved these processes? Can insights and lessons learned be translated across regions? The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal for the Oceans (SDG 14) is a particular focus of research activities in this area at the IASS.

Dossiers

Contributing to the Sustainable Development of Arctic Regions

Sustainable Arctic Futures: A Regional and Global Challenge Dossier

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently rising twice as fast as in most other regions on the planet, a phenomenon most strikingly evidenced by the decreasing extent and volume of Arctic sea ice over the last decades. At the end of summer 2012, the extent of Arctic sea ice was the lowest since satellite measurements began: a mere 3.41 million km2, which is 49% below the 1979 to 2000 average. Since then, summertime sea ice in the Arctic has remained at a historically very low level. The processes currently under way in the Arctic are embedded in climate, economic, legal and social systems and processes that reach far beyond the Arctic Circle.

IASS Research on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Dossier

By endorsing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international community signalled its continued commitment to dealing with global challenges as a collective. The Agenda provides a blueprint for reconciling economic growth with social justice and environmental sustainability.

Publication

New Study on the Future of the Global Seafloor

The ocean hosts an inconceivable wealth of marine life and diverse habitats, most of which remains unknown. International plans to mine minerals from the deep seafloor threaten this largely unexplored biodiversity hotspot. States are currently seeking to develop a legal framework for deep seabed mining. In cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, an international team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has published a new study warning against a rush to exploit deep seafloor resources and calling for coordinated efforts to develop alternative approaches.

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IPCC Report and Marine Regions Forum

Fresh Impetus for Marine Conservation

Climate change is having particularly devastating impacts on the world’s oceans: they are becoming warmer and more acidic, with profound consequences for their complex ecosystem. The special report on “The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate”, due to be presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on 25 September, evaluates current scientific research on changes to the oceans. The Marine Regions Forum will convene in Berlin shortly afterwards with the aim of delivering clear recommendations, actionable results, and more support for regional partnerships.

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Catalogue of measures

A Rescue Plan for the Ocean

A comprehensive High Seas Treaty and extensive marine protected areas are urgently needed in the next decade to preserve life-supporting ocean function. These are just two of eight measures recommended in a study, to which Torsten Thiele from the Ocean Governance team at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) contributed.

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Effective Agreements and Greater Cooperation: Recommendations for Marine Conservation in South America and Africa

The United Nations wish to adopt a new global agreement for the protection of the high seas in the coming year. The negotiations among the UN member states offer an opportunity to strengthen marine conservation and extend protections to ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction. IASS researchers have developed a number of recommendations to strengthen relevant legal frameworks and bolster institutional cooperation in West Africa and South America.

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Climate change

A Duty of Care: How Indigenous Knowledge Can Help the Arctic

Retreating ice, more shipping, fewer reindeer – climate change is already leaving its mark in the Arctic. How are people on the ground coping with these changes? At a recent event in Potsdam, indigenous scientist and entrepreneur Jocelyn Joe-Strack explained why numbers don’t tell the whole story and how her people in the Canadian Arctic are rebuilding their holistic relationship with nature.

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From Voluntary Commitments to Ocean Sustainability: IASS Researchers Propose Global Registry and Uniform Monitoring System

Our human livelihoods depend on the oceans, and the conservation of this vital resource is one of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), which together form the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In order to achieve SDG 14, the sustainable use and development of the world’s oceans, a plethora of voluntary commitments have been made in recent years. IASS researchers Barbara Neumann and Sebastian Unger have studied these voluntary commitments. Their findings and recommendations for improving the existing system have now been published in the prestigious journal Science.

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Marine Conservation: New Dialogue Forum to Strengthen Cooperation

Our oceans are increasingly suffering under the pressure of overfishing, pollution, climate change, and acidification. Yet in spite of this, the various institutions responsible for conserving them still tend to operate in isolation from each other. That situation is about to change: On 8 and 9 October, about 40 international experts gathered at the IASS to further refine the concept for a new informal dialogue forum at the interface of science, policy and society.

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Understanding the Arctic: New Textbook on Arctic Politics

The new textbook “Internationale Politik und Governance in der Arktis” offers a vivid and detailed overview of the actors, events, and processes that have shaped the governance of the Arctic Region. The textbook was written by IASS researcher Kathrin Stephen, Sebastian Knecht from Freie Universität Berlin and Golo M. Bartsch from the European External Action Service (Brussels).

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Benefit Sharing and the Common Heritage of Mankind: Policy Brief Makes Recommendations for the Governance of Deep Seabed Mining

How could the exploitation of the resources of the deep seabed conceivably benefit humanity? What risks does such exploitation pose to the marine environment? And how can we ensure that governance in this area is fair – for all of humankind? The latest IASS Policy Brief examines what the International Seabed Authority can do to reconcile the use of the ‘common heritage of mankind’ with the global sustainable development goals formulated in the 2030 Agenda.

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The Skin of our Planet: Call for Applications to the 2018 Potsdam Summer School

The Earth’s surface is the foundation of all human activity. Geological, biological and climatic dynamics like the carbon cycle, soil formation, and climate and ocean currents form a complex web of connected processes, whose interactions are not yet fully understood. The fifth Potsdam Summer School from 10 to 19 September 2018 is devoted to “The Skin of our Planet – the Earth’s Surface System”.

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Blog Posts

The ocean we need for the future we want

A healthy ocean is critical to the survival of every life on earth. However, given that the marine environment, including its currents and species that inhabit its waters, are transboundary, national action alone cannot ensure its conservation. Each one of us must resolve the pressing issues facing the ocean, from marine pollution and overfishing to securing vulnerable coastal communities.

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