The United Nations’ project Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) is a spinoff of the Law of the Sea.  The UN explains the BBNJ here,  part of which follows below:

“In its resolution 72/249 of 24 December 2017, the General Assembly decided to convene an Intergovernmental Conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, to consider the recommendations of the Preparatory Committee established by resolution 69/292 of 19 June 2015 on the elements and to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, with a view to developing the instrument as soon as possible.

In accordance with resolution 72/249, the Conference held a three-day organizational meeting in New York, from 16 to 18 April 2018, to discuss organizational matters, including the process for the preparation of the zero draft of the instrument.

The Conference [met] for four sessions. The first session was convened from 4 to 17 September 2018 and the second session from 25 March to 5 April 2019. The third session will be convened from 19 to 30 August 2019.  The fourth session will take place in the first half of 2020 ).”

The third, August 2019, BBNJ session included review and discussion of a draft “agreement” document, which is available here.

Part IV, ages 20-29, of the current draft agreement is entitled “ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENTS.” This Part of the current draft BBNJ agreement would establish uniform EIA requirements and “scientific methods” for all signatories. The substance and scope of this EIA Part is evidenced by the following list of its article subtitles:

“Obligation to conduct environmental impact assessments”

“Relationship between this Agreement and environmental impact assessment processes under other [existing] relevant legal instruments and frameworks and relevant global, regional and sectoral bodies”

“Thresholds and criteria for environmental impact assessments”

“Cumulative impacts”

“Transboundary impacts”

“Areas identified as ecologically or biologically significant or vulnerable”

“Strategic environmental assessments”

“List of activities that [require] [or] [do not require] an environmental impact assessment”



“Impact assessment and evaluation”

“Mitigation, prevention and management of potential adverse effects”

“Public notification and consultation”

“Preparation and content of environmental impact assessment reports”

“Publication of [assessment] reports”

“Consideration and review of [assessment] reports]”





The first article “Obligation to conduct environmental impact assessments” states in part, “States Parties shall [as far as practicable] assess the potential effects of planned activities under their jurisdiction or control [on the marine environment].”

A subsequent article states, “The environmental impact assessment reports prepared pursuant to this Agreement shall be considered and reviewed on the basis of approved scientific methods [by the Scientific and Technical [Body] [Network]].]”

The draft EIA article establishes a remarkably detailed EIA process for all “planned activities under [signatories’] jurisdiction or control.” All signatories would agree to implement that process, and they would all agree to conduct that process in compliance with uniform requirements that include “approved scientific methods [by the Scientific and Technical [Body] [Network]].]” This body or network would be established under separate agreement provisions. See Part IV, Article 23.3.

The Part IV EIA requirements apply to “[activities conducted in areas beyond national jurisdiction]” or “[to all activities that have an impact in areas beyond national jurisdiction],” depending on the agreement’s final language.

At the same time, the EIA requirements only apply to “potential effects of planned activities under their [agreement parties’] jurisdiction or control….”

The draft EIA requirements were discussed at the August 2019 meetings, and  a “revised draft for the next session will be developed on the basis of discussions and submissions during the meeting.” It is not clear, however, that any revised draft discussed at the fourth session in 2020 will include the EIA changes in the current draft that were discussed in the August 2019 session.  See remarks of IGC President Rena Lee (Singapore) here.

A brief summary of the third session discussion of the EIA provisions is available here.

A list of credentialed attendees at the third session is available here.