Internationalization of EIA in a new marine biodiversity agreement under the Law of the Sea Convention: A proposal for a tiered approach to review and decision-making
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one of the four main elements of the package being negotiated in the Intergovernmental Conference to develop an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ agreement). “Internationalization” of EIA under the agreement, which partly relates to the international community's role in oversight and outcome of the process, remains a contentious issue that requires continued consideration. Less controversial aspects of internationalization in the EIA process are internationalization of consultation and dissemination of information. They are shown to be critical to achieving quality outcomes and encouraging transparency and accountability. This paper addresses a third dimension of internationalization, relating to review and decision-making, which is proving to be the most divisive in the negotiations to date. This aspect of internationalization is fundamental to allowing decisions taken on proposed activities to be seen as legitimate but concerns exist about the bureaucracy and costs that the process may entail, as well as potential interference with sovereign rights of States Parties under UNCLOS. This paper advances a proposal for internationalization of review and decision-making under the BBNJ agreement that attempts to bridge the divide evident going into the 4th session of the Inter-governmental Conference in 2021.