After 15 years of conflict, failures, and stalled informal and formal talks, the UN has finally reached a high-seas treaty to help protect large swathes our planet’s oceans.
After five rounds of prolonged United Nations-led negotiations, the legally binding agreement was reached on Saturday in New York. This came a day after original deadline.
After a marathon last day of negotiations between negotiators representing more than 100 countries, Rena Lee, UN conference president, announced that “the ship has reached shore”.
The third round of negotiations in a year looked like it might end without success.
The delegates debated sensitive political issues such as how to share new resources between developing and developed nations. They worked all night Friday and Saturday.
The fault lines were in many ways similar to those at the COP27 UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt last year. There, trust and solidarity between rich countries and poor countries was at an all-time low and threatened to endanger the entire event.
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This is the background to the agreement. It’s a significant and potentially crucial step in the fight against climate changes.
Technically, the high seas or parts of the ocean not considered territorial waters do not belong to anyone.
They are huge, covering 60% of the planet’s oceans and nearly half of its surface.
The ocean ecosystems help keep the planet in balance, producing almost half of the earth’s oxygen as well as absorbing a lot of carbon dioxide.
However, they are at risk from global warming, pollution and exploitation.
The treaty protects 30% of the land and sea world-wide by 2030. This is known as the “30 by 30” target.
During the last round of negotiations, economic interests were a key sticking point. Developing countries demanded a larger share of the “blue economy”, which includes technology transfer.
A deal to share the “marine gene resources” that are used in biotechnology industries was also an issue.
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Greenpeace estimates that 11 million square kilometers (4.2 million sq. miles) of ocean must be protected each year up to 2030 in order to reach the target.
Laura Meller, a Greenpeace oceans campaigner, stated that countries must adopt the treaty and ratify the treaty as soon as possible to make it effective and deliver the ocean sanctuaries the planet requires.
“The clock is still ticking for 30 by 30. We still have half a century to go, so we must not be complacent.
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