Environmental impact assessment in the world's oceans beyond national jurisdiction: crafting a comprehensive regime
The process initiated by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in Resolution 69/2921 to develop the elements of an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) has prompted wide-ranging research into existing ocean governance frameworks and their applicability to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). UNGA 69/292 provides that negotiations to develop the new ILBI should address the four elements of a package deal agreed by States in 2011. These elements comprise marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits, measures such as area-based management tools (ABMT), including marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments (EIAs), capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology. The Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings held in 2016 and 2017 identified additional cross-cutting issues for consideration, including definitions, scope of the instrument, relationship of the instrument to other instruments and frameworks, institutional arrangements, compliance, responsibility and liability, dispute settlement and final clauses.2 UNGA Resolution 69/292 also stipulates that the process to develop the ILBI should not undermine existing relevant legal instruments and frameworks and relevant global, sectoral and regional bodies.3 This paper highlights key questions which have been discussed in the EIA element of the package agreed in 2011. It will review areas of convergence and divergence on the EIA element which emerged during the PrepCom meetings and continued during the first session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on the ILBI in September 2018. Finally, it discusses the options included in the EIA section of the President's aid to negotiations for the second session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) and some of the capacity-building needs associated with those options at global, regional and national level.