Chapter 17: Nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans
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Keeping the focus on the global oceans, Daniela Diz investigates the legal framework related to the ‘nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans’ boundary in Chapter 17. She assesses the extent to which the law of the sea regime is equipped to control some of the key drivers of biogeochemical cycle alterations. Given the diffuse nature of the entry points of nutrients into the marine environment, including through agricultural run-offs and atmospheric emissions, aggravated as this is by unsustainable patterns of consumption and production and system inefficiencies, this poses a significant challenge for the global law and governance regime. The implementation of the ecosystem approach, as elaborated by decisions of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992, linking watersheds and seas, and supported by cooperation at all scales – from local to regional to global levels – is necessary, albeit difficult to operationalise, especially in light of a fragmented regulatory regime. This chapter then explores the role of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in addressing this issue in a holistic manner, while recognising not only its strengths, but also its limitations. It further explores synergies between the 1982 Convention’s obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment from land-based sources of pollution and relevant global and regional legally and non-legally binding instruments, including global goals and targets, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, with a particular focus on the use of fertilisers as a significant source of nitrogen and phosphorus into the marine environment.

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