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Contested multilateralism: toward aligning regimes for ocean and climate governance

posted on 2023-05-24, 06:23 authored by Reuben MakomereReuben Makomere, Mbeva, KL

Climate change has not only resulted in unprecedented challenges to global wellbeing but also has created and intensified environmental challenges. Critical to this is the role oceans play and the effects of climate change on oceans. As the links between climate and oceans become more complicated, primarily due to increasing scope and intensity of climate stressors on oceans (Brigg et al., 2013; Mendelsohn et al., 2012), contemporary ocean governance regimes have experienced a noticeable inertia Kim (2012). They have to maintain a status quo as the complexity of the challenges has steadily increased. This is emblematic of the broader challenge of gridlock in global governance, especially regarding “super-wicked” global challenges that exhibit complex interdependence (Keohane and Nye, 2011) and that require unprecedented global cooperation and collective action (Hale et al., 2013). That said, this has begun to change, albeit modestly, in the past few years. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Paris Agreement on climate change were significant steps. Climate change and ocean governance were part of the SDGs. It is how these two issues have been interlinked within these and other multilateral frameworks that is the subject of this chapter.

In this chapter, we examine the methods exhibited in efforts to align the ocean governance regime, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (see Chapter 2), with the international climate governance regime. We do this in light of the 2015 Paris Agreement. We examine linkage politics as catalysts for coevolving governance. We look at how and why states have introduced ocean governance issues into the international climate regime through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. States have increasingly linked climate impacts to ocean challenges, and specifically included this linkage in their NDCs as part of their efforts to adapt governance responses to the complex interactions between climatic and ocean systems. We refer to this approach as “signaling” and argue that states seek to draw attention to the need to adjust the climate and ocean regimes in response to these complex interactions.


Publication title

Climate Change and Ocean Governance: Politics and Policy for Threatened Seas


PG Harris






Faculty of Law


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

Cambridge, United Kingdom



Rights statement

Copyright 2019 Cambridge University Press

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

International relations not elsewhere classified

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