Marine biodiversity

Highlights and images for 22 February 2023

UN Headquarters, New York

With two pledges for financial support announced on Wednesday, delegates at the resumed fifth session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC-5.2) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) made progress on certain elements in the text, yet much work remains to be done to reach an agreement.

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In the morning, delegates met in a first stocktaking plenary, hearing progress reports from the facilitators of each of the elements of the package under discussion. During plenary, Palestine pledged up to USD 50,000 for activities related to capacity building and the transfer of marine technology under the new agreement, and urged, in a passionate address, developed countries to assume their responsibilities and provide the necessary resources for the new agreement to be successful. The European Union pledged EUR 40 million to support the early ratification of the agreement. Another stocktaking plenary is scheduled for Thursday, 23 February 2023.

View of the room during the plenary

View of the room during plenary

For the rest of the day, two informal-informals convened in parallel to discuss provisions related to:  area-based management tools (ABMTs), including marine protected areas (MPAs); environmental impact assessments (EIAs); and cross-cutting issues, specifically on  funding and institutional arrangements.

On ABMTs, delegates addressed decision making, focusing on, among other things: the need not to undermine international frameworks and bodies (IFBs), discussing whether this would be covered by an umbrella reference under article 4 (relationship between this agreement and IFBs); and whether the recognition-related provisions are necessary or whether they could lead to an imbalance between rights and obligations.

Thembile Joyini, South Africa, and Victoria Hallum, New Zealand

Thembile Joyini, South Africa, and Victoria Hallum, New Zealand

On EIAs, while some progress was made in relation to decision making, monitoring, reporting, and review, agreement on the issue of the thresholds to trigger the obligation to conduct an EIA remained evasive.

On funding, the IGC heard from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The GEF reported on its eighth replenishment (GEF-8) where USD 34 million has been set aside to support BBNJ ratification, indicating that funds could be accessed before the end of 2023, with more to be built into future replenishments; and that the GEF Council would welcome a request to become the new instrument’s financial mechanism or part thereof.

They also discussed the purpose and sources of funding for a special fund that would support the new agreement’s implementation, with divergent views emerging on mandatory payments into the fund.

View of the room during informal negotiations on cross cutting issues

View of the room during informal negotiations on cross cutting issues

On institutional arrangements, delegates addressed the scientific and technical body, the secretariat, and the clearinghouse mechanism, making progress on clearing parts of the text. In their discussions on the secretariat, views were still split on whether the new treaty would have a stand-alone secretariat or whether the UN Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea (UNDOALOS) would take on this function. One delegation expressed interest in hosting a stand-alone secretariat.

Delegates met into the evening, holding consultations with President Rena Lee (Singapore).

Small group discussions occurred throughout the day, with delegates considering issues related to all four major elements of the package of the new treaty, namely: marine genetic resources (MGRs), including questions of benefit-sharing; ABMTs, including MPAs; EIAs; and capacity building and the transfer of marine technology (CB&TT). Discussions will continue on Thursday in informal-informal and small-group settings. IGC President Rena Lee will also conduct consultations during the course of the day.

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All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For the Resumed 5th Session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on BBNJ, please use: Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis