1.   
Introduction

International environmental
law has been developed to be various disciplines which discuss several
different issues specifically. Regimes have been devised to address specific
global or regional environmental problems, such as particular sources and types
of trans-boundary pollution, rather than to promote trans-boundary
environmental governance in integrated manner.1 As
a consequence there is today an array of international environmental regimes
but a lack of coordination among them, and many regimes operate independently,
and sometimes even inconsistently, in relation to each another.2

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The changing chemistry of
the oceans as a result of the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the
atmosphere, called ocean acidification, is one of several challenges in
addressing new environmental challenges effectively and expeditiously in
environmental regime complexity. Such phenomenon is caused by the atmospheric
pollutant that is also the main driver of anthropogenic climate change, having
effects on the marine environment as serious as other climate change, having
effects on the marine environment as serious as other pollutants entering the
oceans. As the phenomenon has only recently been assessed in scientific
literature, and much further research remains to be done, there has been little
opportunity for an influential epistemic community of concerned scientist to
assemble and raise global awareness of the seriousness of the problem.3 Flowing
from this, attention is only now being directed to what role international
environmental law can and ought to play in addressing ocean acidification.

There are two main environmental regimes appear
to have obvious application to ocean acidification – the climate change regime
established upon the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC)4 and the marine
pollution regime constituted by the UNCLOS that regulate pollution of the
marine environment from various sources. However, while the phenomenon is
partially regulated by both of these principal regimes, or collections of
regimes, it is addressed wholeheartedly by neither. Ocean acidification
therefore exists in somewhat of an international legal twilight zone, a
regrettable position given the serious threat it presents to the ecological integrity
of the world’s oceans.5

In connection with the legal
implication of ocean acidification by co2 of climate change, after the
introduction, next section discuss the ocean acidification itself by describing
the causes and the consequences. Section 3 will analyze the international law
regimes to address the problem. Afterwards, this article argue that there is a
need for amendment to the UNCLOS.

2.   
Ocean Acidification

The present atmospheric concentration
of CO2 is higher than it has been for the
past 420,000 years, and possibly for the last 15 million years.6 While the effects of this change to
the carbon concentration of the atmosphere on the global climate system is
widely acknowledged and increasingly well understood, the impact of CO2 on the chemical make-up of the oceans has only recently
attracted attention from scientists and policy makers.7

a.   
The Causes of Ocean
Acidification

The chemical process of ocean
acidification is relatively straightforward, although there is substantial
regional and seasonal variability in ocean pH.8 As the term ‘ocean acidification’ suggests, when CO2 dissolves in the oceans it reacts with H2O to form an acid, carbonic acid.9 The oceans are naturally alkaline and the pre-industrial pH
of the oceans was around 8.1.10 However oceanic pH has now declined by 0.1, such that the
oceans are more acidic today than at any time in the last half-million years.11 Moreover, ocean pH may fall by up to 0.5 units by 2100 if CO2 emissions are not substantially reduced.12

1 See generally T. Stephens,
International courts and environmental protection (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2009).

2 See R. Wolfrum and N.
Matz, Conflicts in international environmental law (Berlin: Springer,
2003).  

3 In contrast to the ozone
depletion and climate change that has attracted far more scientific attention
over a longer period, with correspondingly greater impacts upon global
environmental regime building. See generally Peter M. Haas, “Banning
Chlorofluorocarbons: Epistemic Community Efforts to Protect Stratospheric
Ozone” 46 International Organization (1992), 1.  

4 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 9 May 1992, (“UNFCCC”).  

5 Rachel Baird, et al, “Ocean Acidification: A Litmus
Test for International Law”, Sydney Law
School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10/139, 2010, 3

6 SCOR/IOC, “The ocean in a high CO2 world”, 17 Oceanography (2004),
72.  

7 Rachel Baird, loc cit

8 B. I. McNeil and R.J. Matearb, “Southern Ocean acidification: A tipping
point at 450-ppm atmospheric CO2”, 105 Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences (2008).

9 J. C. Orr et al., “Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first
century and its impact on calcifying organisms”, 437 Nature (2005), 681.
 

10 O. Hoegh-Guldberg et al., “Coral reefs under rapid climate change and
ocean acidification”, 318 Science (2007), 1737  

11 ibid

12 Royal Society, Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric
carbon dioxide (2005), in Rachel
Baird, op cit, 4.