Armed with a refreshed draft treaty text circulated on Sunday, delegates at the fifth session of the intergovernmental conference (IGC-5) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) opened discussions as the final week of the meeting got underway. They met in informal informals and small-group discussions, addressing provisions on:
- marine genetic resources (MGRs), including questions on the sharing of benefits;
- environmental impact assessments (EIAs); and
- cross-cutting issues, including implementation and compliance, and dispute settlement.
In their discussions on MGRs, delegates addressed the heart of the matter in their rationalizations for or against monetary benefit-sharing provisions. Those against opined that there is little scope in distinguishing between monetary and non-monetary benefits. They noted that the track-and-trace system operationalizing monetary benefit-sharing, would prove to be costly and inefficient. Those in favor, however, posited both legal and moral arguments for sharing benefits accrued from the commercialization of MGRs from the high seas. Some lamented the lack of political will to objectively and conclusively resolve this part of the agreement.
On EIAs, they addressed whether or not EIAs should have a standalone definition, and, if so, what that definition should be. They also considered thorny issues on: decision making; thresholds; and an opt-in provision that parties may extend the application of the agreement to planned activities under their jurisdiction likely to have impacts on areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).
On cross-cutting issues, delegates discussed implementation and compliance, and dispute settlement. With several new proposals on the table, delegations will require more time to successfully unravel this section, including the potential establishment of an implementation and compliance committee.
Beginning on Tuesday, 23 August 2022, delegates will also convene in bilateral and multilateral “President’s consultations” in order to build consensus on the more difficult parts of the text.