Offshore oil exploitation: a new frontier for international environmental law
Offshore oil exploitation: a new frontier for international environmental law / Lucien Chabason. Iddri, novembre 2011. 9 p. (Idées pour le débat / Working Paper N°11/2011.)
Points clés (source et copyright © IDDRI) :
Addressing the risks of offshore oil exploitation
Recent accidents on offshore oil platforms have drawn attention to the ecological and human risks inherent to this industrial activity. In the current context of the continued development of deep and ultra-deep offshore drilling, which affects the integrity of oceans and seas as a common property, it therefore appears essential that those risks be addressed and that progress be made towards the construction of an international legal framework.
Different initiatives, disapointing outcomes
At the intergovernmental level, two legal and political processes have been initiated to advance pollution prevention and control: the Indonesian and Russian proposals are both based on the observation that international law falls well short of covering the cross-border dimensions of offshore oil exploitation when considering the increasing risks involved. It is indeed with caution that international law addresses the obligations of states, as sovereignty and jurisdiction issues often limit its scope and impacts. As for regional initiatives and conventions, they are often chronically absent or of very limited effectiveness.
Supporting a comprehensive approach
The deficiencies of a highly fragmented international law therefore call for support to a comprehensive approach that aims to: counterbalance the power of oil companies and their professional organisations with an international legal framework that creates obligations; and establish a common set of obligations for states (and operators) covering the entire process of approval, monitoring, intervention, sanctions and liability regime. International institutions such as UNEP and IMO could take on this responsibility and promote the creation of a comprehensive convention on offshore oil exploitation.