(United Nations) UN member states finally agreed on Saturday to the first international treaty to protect the high seas, aimed at thwarting threats to humanity’s vital ecosystems.
“The ship has come ashore,” conference chair Rina Lee announced at UN headquarters in New York just before 9:30 p.m. Saturday, to loud and drawn-out applause from delegates.
After more than 15 years of discussions, including four years of formal negotiations, the “last” third session in New York was finally the right one, or so.
The delegates finished off the text with the content now frozen in substance, but to be formally adopted at a later date after it has been vetted by the legal services and translated to be available in the six official languages of the United Nations.
The exact content of the text was not immediately released, but campaigners hailed it as a watershed moment for protecting biodiversity.
“It’s a historic day for conservation and a signal that protecting nature and people in a divided world can triumph over geopolitics,” said Laura Miller of Greenpeace.
After two weeks of intense discussions, including a marathon session from Friday night to Saturday, the delegates finalized a text that could no longer be substantially changed.
El-Sayed said, “There will be no reopening or substantive discussions” on this file.I me to the negotiators.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres congratulated the delegates, according to one of his spokespersons who said the agreement is “a victory for multilateralism and for global efforts to confront the devastating trends that threaten the health of the oceans today and for generations to come”.
The high seas begin where the states’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs) end, up to a maximum of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coastline, and are therefore not under the jurisdiction of any nation.
Even if they account for more than 60% of the oceans and nearly half of the planet, they have long been ignored in the ecological battle, in favor of coastal areas and a few emblematic species.
With the progress of science, the importance of protecting these oceans, which are teeming with often microscopic biodiversity, which also provides half of the oxygen we breathe and limits global warming by absorbing an important part of carbon dioxide, has been proven.2 emitted from human activities.
But the oceans are falling victim to these emissions (the heating and acidification of water in particular), pollution of all kinds, and overfishing.
The new treaty, when it enters into force after it has been formally adopted, signed and then ratified by a sufficient number of countries, will establish marine protected areas in these international waters.
Only about 1% of the high seas is subject to conservation measures, and this symbolic tool is essential if we hope to protect 30% of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030, as all the planet’s governments committed to in December. in Montreal.
“Protected areas on the high seas can play a vital role in building resilience to the effects of climate change,” said Liz Karan of the NGO Pew Charitable Trusts.
The Treaty on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction also provides for the obligation to conduct environmental impact assessments of proposed activities on the high seas.
Finally, a highly sensitive chapter that crystallized tensions down to the last minute, the principle of sharing the benefits of marine genetic resources collected on the high seas.
Developing countries that do not have the means to fund expensive campaigns and research have struggled not to be excluded from accessing marine genetic resources and from participating in the expected profits from commercializing these resources – which belong to no one – including medicines. Or cosmetic companies hoping to derive miracle molecules.
Observers commented that, as in other international forums, particularly the climate negotiations, the debate ended up being reduced to the question of equality between North and South.
With an announcement seen as a confidence-building gesture between North and South, the European Union, in New York, pledged €40 million to facilitate the ratification and initial implementation of the treaty.
Moreover, it pledged more than 800 million euros to protect the oceans in general for the year 2023 during the “Our Ocean” conference that concluded on Friday in Panama.
In all, Panamanian Foreign Minister Janina Tewani announced that during this conference “341 new commitments” were made, amounting to nearly $20 billion – including nearly $6 billion from the United States – to protect the seas.
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