Joint Press Statement by Catherine Colonna, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Hervé Bierville, Secretary of State to the Prime Minister, Responsible for the Sea (20.06.2023)

Marine biodiversity: France welcomes the adoption of the Convention for the Protection of Biodiversity on the High Seas (BBNJ)

June 20, 2023

Today France welcomes the formal adoption by consensus of the Convention on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, i.e. on the High Seas (the so-called BBNJ “), on the occasion of a new session of discussions at United Nations Headquarters in New York, which followed the agreement reached last March.

Oceans are one of the main reservoirs of the world’s biodiversity and carbon sinks are essential to regulating the climate. Therefore, they are essential in our fight against climate change. It makes up over 90% of the planet’s habitable area and is home to about 250,000 known species as well as many more that are still unknown.

A landmark treaty to protect marine biodiversity on the high seas

A few months after adopting a convention at COP15 on biodiversity aiming to protect 30% of land and seas by 2030, and three months after its conclusion, the formal adoption of the Treaty for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity on the High Seas is an additional major step to protect oceans and their biodiversity and empower fair and equitable sharing of its resources. This treaty will make it possible for an international legally binding instrument to strengthen the management of the high seas and to establish the tools necessary for the effective protection of the oceans and the sustainable use of their resources.

It paves the way for fundamental and unprecedented developments:

● the possibility of creating marine reserves on the high seas;

• States’ obligation to assess the environmental impact of new activities they plan on the high seas;

● the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits of discoveries made in the oceans, which could be critical to science, technology or medicine;

• Enhancing the capabilities of developing countries in the field of scientific research and the ability to ensure rational management of marine areas;

Decisive French mobilization to end the negotiations successfully

The commitment of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, to protecting the oceans and marine biodiversity, notably during the One Ocean Summit in Brest and during the Lisbon Ocean Conference in 2022, has been a driving force in accelerating the pace of action. Finally the discussions at the international level. The creation, at the initiative of France, of the Highly Ambitious Alliance for the High Seas, made it possible to reinvigorate these negotiations, which had stalled for 15 years. This coalition now has 52 members, with the United States and South Korea joining this year.

France has played a leading role with its EU partners and throughout this negotiation process in order to obtain the highest possible level of ambition and a universal, fair and enforceable agreement.

In line with its commitment, France will host the next United Nations Oceans Conference in Nice in 2025, which it will co-organise with Costa Rica. It is in this perspective that the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, has mobilized the French diplomatic network for several months now to obtain the highest possible level of ambition for the ocean.

On June 8, on the occasion of World Oceans Day, the Secretary of State for the Seas, Hervé Pierreville, launched the countdown of the J-700s leading up to this grand conference, from the site he will welcome in Nice.

This international conference will be crucial in making ocean protection a global reality, in line with the movement that started in New York. The formal adoption of the Treaty today should mark the continuation of a new dynamic of cooperation and multilateralism that allows for the preservation and protection of the oceans. France will continue to play its full role in order to achieve this goal and will be one of the first signatories to the agreement with a view to ratifying it, and will have the ambition of the entry into force of the text in 2025. He calls on all other countries to do the same, as soon as possible.

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