UN member states reach landmark agreement on ocean protection | outside

After years of negotiations, the member states of the United Nations have finally reached an agreement on preserving ocean biodiversity. The High Seas Agreement must protect international waters, about two-thirds of the ocean’s surface.

“The ship has come ashore,” conference chair Rina Lee announced to loud applause at United Nations headquarters in New York on Saturday evening, local time.

The main objective of the conference was to ensure that at least 30 percent of the world’s oceans would be designated as protected areas in the future. There should also be procedures for checking economic projects, expeditions and other activities in the oceans for environmental friendliness. Finally, the Convention on the High Seas should place the biodiversity of the high seas under binding international protection.

critical to life on Earth

Two-thirds of the oceans lie outside countries’ exclusive economic zones and belong to the high seas. They are largely areas beyond national jurisdiction. While the good health of marine ecosystems is critical to life on Earth, only 1 percent is currently protected. The agreement aims to change that, and is seen as essential to achieving the target agreed in December of protecting 30 percent of the world’s land and sea by 2030.

During discussions on the final text of the agreement in New York, the European Union pledged €40 billion as a contribution to increasing engagement with and implementation of the agreement. Earlier this week, during the Our Ocean Conference in Panama, the European Union announced that it would invest $860m (more than €800m) in research, monitoring and ocean conservation in 2023. According to Panama, a total of €19bn (€18m) is earmarked To protect the oceans, of which 6 billion dollars by the United States.

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Agreed 15 years in the making

An internationally binding agreement to protect international waters has been discussed for fifteen years, but different countries have previously advocated widely differing views and interests. For example, one point of contention has been the distribution of potential profits from the exploitation of marine genetic resources. Several rounds of negotiations have taken place since 2018. In August last year, a previous conference in New York ended without results after two weeks.

Rina Lee, Chair of the International Convention for the Protection of the High Seas Conference. © AFP

Denton Watson

"Friend of animals everywhere. Evil twitter fan. Pop culture evangelist. Introvert."

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