Integrating climate change in the governance of areas beyond national jurisdiction

In Elise Johansen, Signe Busch and Ingvild Ulrikke Jakobsen (eds), The Law of the Sea and Climate Change: Solutions and Constraints. Cambridge University Press, 2020, pp. 336-353.

Science is gradually revealing knowledge of marine life in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) that was not previously known and with that also knowledge about the stressors on the marine ecosystems in areas that used to be largely beyond human impact. Human activities in ABNJ  have increased considerably, and climate change with its main stressors, ocean warming deoxygenation and ocean acidification, are expected to compound the impacts. The Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) and the relatively few other legal instruments applicable to ABNJ, do not include specific provisions to protect the marine environment against the effects of climate change or contribute to climate change mitigation. One opportunity to change this legal situation is to include concerns for climate change in the international legally binding instrument under LOSC on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction that is currently under negotiation. Environmental impact assessment (EIA), one of four main topics for the negotiations, is particularly important in this regard since the instrument could provide for climate change impacts to be taken into account when conducting EIA. In this regard, two categories of EIA would be relevant: of activities which may have climate change impacts in ABNJ, and of activities aimed at climate change mitigation in ABNJ which may lead to other adverse impacts on the marine environment.