At a cabinet meeting on 14 September, the German Government appointed Sebastian Unger as its first Special Representative for the Oceans in the portfolio of the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection. Prior to his appointment, Unger worked at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) for a good decade. The establishment of a Special Representative for the Oceans underscores the Federal Government’s recognition of the growing importance of marine conservation and the sustainable use of the oceans.
The clock is ticking down fast but is there a need to rush? In 2021, the island nation of Nauru triggered a treaty provision known as the “two-year rule” that obliges the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to finalize and adopt regulations for deep seabed mining within 24 months. Researcher Pradeep Singh of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) examines the legal implications of this provision in a paper published in the International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law.
International solutions are needed to protect the ocean. Two sets of regulations currently under development offer an opportunity to expand protections, but a greater degree of alignment between the two must be achieved. In a new scientific article IASS researchers outline how this could be realised. States will meet again in July and August to continue their negotiations.
The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) is a shared responsibility of all nations. But current regulations and policies are ineffective to address comprehensive marine environmental protection. Over its five-year duration, the STRONG High Seas project (‘Strengthening Regional Ocean Governance for the High Seas’) has advanced the development of integrated approaches for ABNJ in the Southeast Atlantic and Southeast Pacific.
Mangrove forests, seagrass beds and salt marshes, macroalgae and marine sediments: All of these marine ecosystems can store atmospheric CO2 in their biomass and sediments. In an IASS study, researchers present recommendations for Germany to better address this aspect of the ocean-climate-nexus in national environmental policy.
Scientific advice is increasingly used to inform policy. However, when the stakes are high, time is short and uncertainty looms, scientists are often guided more by their intuition than by knowledge. A new study shows that intuitive judgments can substantially influence policy advice – for example, in the setting of fishing quotas. While this is not necessarily detrimental, more transparency around this is desirable.
Area-based management tools are an important means of protecting the ocean. In addition to marine protected areas, they include spatial regulations for activities such as fishing, shipping or deep sea mining, and more comprehensive approaches such as maritime spatial planning. These measures can contribute significantly to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the ocean. However, this requires better coordination of measures and effective implementation, as researchers have shown in a new study with the participation of the IASS.
There are increasing signs that negotiations over a global agreement on plastic pollution will begin in February 2022. In an article co-authored by IASS researcher Sebastian Unger and his team published in the journal “Science”, a team of scientists present the three key objectives and a number of supporting actions for an intergovernmental agreement in order to effectively curb the increasing amount of plastic waste.
Sustainable Development Goal 14 (“Life below water”) of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development addresses the protection and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources. Conventional approaches to environmental policy and governance are less suited to transboundary systems such as the ocean. A new study by researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) examines the challenges and potentials of collaborative processes at the level of marine regions.
The European interdisciplinary collaboration Seas Oceans and Public Health In Europe (SOPHIE) Project has outlined the initial steps that a wide range of organisations could take to work together to protect the largest connected ecosystem on Earth. In a commentary paper published in the American Journal of Public Health the researchers, among them Torsten Thiele of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), call on public health and medical professionals to harness the UN Ocean Decade (2021-2030) as a meaningful catalyst for global change, reminding us that ocean health is intricately linked to human health.
As investors set their sights on the mineral resources of the deep seabed, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) is developing regulations that will govern their future exploration and possible exploitation. A new IASS Policy Brief, published in cooperation with the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), presents three recommendations to ensure that future deep seabed mining would be to the common benefit all humankind, as required by international law.
Millions of tonnes of plastic waste find their way into the ocean every year. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam has investigated the role of regional ocean governance in the fight against marine plastic pollution, highlighting why regional marine governance should be further strengthened as negotiations for a new global agreement continue.
We rely on the ocean to meet our growing demand for foodstuffs, energy, and transport. At the same time, marine ecosystems are facing serious challenges from over-exploitation, pollution, climate change, and loss of biodiversity. In a new report prepared with the support of IASS researchers, the High Level Panel for the Sustainable Ocean Economy, an international initiative of heads of state and government, recommends concrete steps to strike a balance between the use and protection of the oceans.
Strengthening the European Union’s role in international ocean governance - this is the aim of the EU International Ocean Governance Forum (IOG Forum) developed by the European Commission and the European External Action Service with the support of the IASS and other project partners. In late April 2020, the IOG Forum was launched online with a series of online-seminars attended by 450 experts. The series addressed a range of issues, including the protection and sustainable use of the oceans, how to deal with the oceans in the context of climate change and the role of research and science for a sustainable future for the oceans.
The next decade will be crucial for the future of our oceans. What role can marine regions play in efforts to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals? Which approaches have proven successful and what can be done to enhance their coordination? Experts developed solutions to these questions and more at the Marine Regions Forum held in Berlin, Germany last autumn. On 4–5 February, IASS project lead Sebastian Unger will present the most important recommendations at a preparatory meeting for the United Nations’ 2020 Ocean Conference.
Interest in the extraction of mineral resources from the deep seabed has grown in recent years. In order to protect the marine environment, the existing legal framework must be strengthened through the addition of environmental objectives and regulations to minimize harmful impacts. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam recommends the establishment of ecological safeguards for deep-seabed mining in a new report commissioned by the German Environment Agency (UBA).
IASS marine researcher Carole Durussel is among 80 female scientists from around the world selected to participate in the Homeward Bound leadership initiative. The year-long programme, which includes a series of online training seminars and a three-week expedition to Antarctica, will help the participating researchers develop networks to address environmental problems.
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.
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.
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.
The next round of negotiations on a new legally binding instrument for biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) will take place from 19 to 30 August 2019. How can the agreement be formulated to meet the challenges of a constantly changing environment? A new study makes concrete proposals for an agreement that includes resilience principles.
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.
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.
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.
Negotiations on a new international agreement to protect biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction – and support the UN sustainable development goals in the process – got under way in September. Researchers from the IASS were present at the negotiations and have now published a Policy Brief with recommendations for the proposed agreement.
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.
In September, UN member states will begin negotiating a treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity on the high seas. But such challenges as ocean conservation cannot be resolved at the global level alone. A new study focusing on the Southeast Pacific shows what role regional organisations can play.
Ocean conservation ranked high on the international political agenda in 2017. But did stakeholders succeed in turning the tide towards greater sustainability? Representatives from science, policymaking and civil society met at the IASS on 13-14 December to discuss this.
Negotiations to regulate deep seabed mining are entering a critical phase with some states pushing back against the rush to mine the ocean floor. Germany has called for a precautionary pause on seabed mining. The Ocean Governance team at the IASS is supporting the development of high environmental standards to protect the ocean from harm that could be caused by seabed mining.
From 21 March to 1 April 2022 governments will continue negotiations of international regulations for deep seabed at the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Scientists from IASS will attend the 27th Session of the ISA Council as part of research on environmental standards for deep seabed mining.
From 7 to 18 March 2022, governments will continue negotiations on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction under the auspices of the United Nations. After a break of nearly two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, a binding UN instrument should be ready this year.
At COP26 in Glasgow, the ocean was addressed in many discussions on climate solutions. But despite the frequently noted importance of putting the ocean-climate nexus on the agenda and promising pledges made by various governments, there is still work to be done to ensure measurable progress and favourable outcomes for the climate, the ocean, and people.
The issue of marine conservation was hardly mentioned in the election campaign and the exploratory coalition talks that followed. This despite the fact that, for years, scientists have agreed that the climate crisis cannot be successfully combated without active marine conservation. Yet with the start of the coalition negotiations, this could now change. A look at the election programmes of the Green Party and the liberal FDP offers hope that a "Blue Deal" – a sustainable marine policy that is in line with the 1.5-degrees target and could improve the livelihood of those living in coastal regions – will be one of the future projects of the new coalition government.
Advancements in new technologies open up new ocean industries and possibilities to explore the ocean. Some of these new technologies, such as swarms of underwater mini robots to map the seafloor or sensors on automated underwater vehicles, assist scientists in their work and produce growing quantities of ocean data.
As the largest and most complex ecosystem on the planet, the ocean plays a key role in efforts to address the interrelated challenges of biodiversity collapse and climate change. Despite this, its dynamics have only been inadequately included in financial approaches intended to mitigate them. Financial regulators are increasingly aware of the multiple links between the climate and biodiversity crisis and the financial system and how nature is impacted by financial flows. They now need to fully integrate ocean biodiversity into their approaches.
Thirty years ago today, world leaders came together to launch the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a bold initiative to foster change in an economic system that was degrading both the environment and indeed entire societies. Today, with the ocean facing unprecedented threats, a similarly bold initiative is required.
Five years have passed since the so-called ‘Paris Agreement’ was concluded at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) following years of deliberation between the member States. For the ocean, the Paris Agreement represents a turning point: previously issues relating to the ocean were side-lined in COP negotiations.
With the rapid growth of the technology sector over the past decade, the demand for metals such as copper, manganese, cobalt and other rare earth minerals has increased many times over. The deep seabed as a potential source of these minerals seems particularly attractive against this backdrop, especially as industrial deep seabed mining is now close to operationalization.
The ocean plays a fundamental role in regulating global temperatures. Not only does the ocean absorb 93 percent of the heat trapped by rising anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2), but it also absorbs approximately 25 to 30 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere and increase global warming.
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.
Negotiations on a conservation agreement for the high seas are currently under way at the United Nations in New York. This agreement has to be ambitious if it is to protect our oceans from profiteers. After more than a decade of heated debate, the United Nations have begun to negotiate a new agreement on the...