September 22, 2023

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High Seas Treaty | Nations of the United Nations have reached an agreement

(United Nations) UN member states finally agreed on Saturday to the first international agreement to protect the high seas, aimed at addressing threats to humanity’s vital ecosystems.

“The ship has reached shore,” said conference president Rena Lee.

After more than 15 years of discussions, including four years of formal negotiations, the third “final” session in New York is finally right, or nearly so.

Delegates have frozen the text in content for now, but it will be formally adopted once it has been vetted by legal services and translated into the six official UN languages.

Despite everything, “this is an important step”, Greenpeace’s Veronica Frank commented before the agreement, although she stressed that care must be taken that the process is not a “back door to reopening questions”.

The high seas begin where states’ exclusive economic zones (EEZ) end, at a maximum distance of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coast, and are therefore not under the jurisdiction of any state.

Many oceans

Although it represents more than 60% of the oceans and almost half of the planet, it has long been neglected in the environmental struggle, in favor of coastal areas and a few iconic species.

With the advancement of science, the importance of protecting these oceans has been proven, which are mostly rich in microscopic biodiversity, which provide half of the oxygen we breathe and limit global warming by absorbing a major part of CO.2 It is caused by human activities.

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But the oceans are weakening, victims of these emissions (especially the warming and acidification of water), all kinds of pollution and overfishing.

The new agreement, once it enters into force after it has been duly accepted, signed and ratified by sufficient countries, will create marine protected areas in this international sea area.

Only 1% of the high seas are subject to conservation measures, and if we hope to protect 30% of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030, this identification tool has been pledged by all of the planet’s governments in December. in Montreal.

“Life on Earth depends on a healthy ocean. “The new High Seas Agreement will be critical to our common goal of protecting 30% of our oceans by 2030,” said Monica Medina, the US State Department’s ocean officer.

The Agreement on the “Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction” also introduces an obligation to carry out environmental impact assessments of proposed activities in the high seas.

Profit sharing

Finally, a highly sensitive chapter that crystallized tensions until the last minute was the policy of sharing the benefits of marine genetic resources collected on the high seas.

Developing countries that do not have the means to finance the most expensive expeditions and research, struggle not to be excluded from accessing genetic marine resources and from sharing in the expected profits from the commercialization of these resources. Or cosmetics companies hope to acquire miracle molecules.

As in other international forums, particularly climate negotiations, the debate boiled down to a question of North-South equity, observers noted.

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In an announcement seen as a North-South confidence-building gesture, the European Union pledged 40 million euros in New York to facilitate the ratification of the agreement and its initial implementation.

Beyond that, during the “Our Ocean” conference that ended Friday in Panama, it pledged more than 800 million euros for the protection of the oceans in general for 2023.

In total, “341 new commitments,” worth nearly $20 billion — including nearly $6 billion from the United States — were made to protect the oceans during the conference, Panamanian Foreign Minister Zaina Devani announced.