After 15 years of disagreements, failures and stalled formal and informal talks, there is finally a United Nations treaty on the high seas that will help protect vast swaths of the world’s oceans.
The legally binding deal was reached after five rounds of protracted UN-led negotiations that concluded in New York on Saturday, a day after the original deadline.
“The ship has reached shore,” UN conference president Rena Lee announced after a marathon final day of talks between negotiators from more than 100 countries.
The last round of negotiations, the third in a year, looked like it would end again without success.
Delegates worked Friday night and Saturday, arguing over sensitive political issues such as how to share newly discovered resources between developed and developing countries.
In many ways, the fault lines mirrored those at the UN climate change conference COP27 in Egypt late last year, where trust and solidarity between rich and poor countries came very close. breaking point and threatened to derail the whole event.
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In this context, securing an agreement represents an important and potentially critical step in the fight against climate change.
The high seas, or the parts of the ocean that are not territorial waters, technically do not belong to anyone.
But they are colossal, making up 60% of Earth’s oceans and covering almost half of its surface.
Ocean ecosystems keep our planet in balance by producing nearly half of Earth’s oxygen and absorbing much of its carbon dioxide.
But they are threatened by pollution, exploitation and global warming.
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The treaty places 30% of the world’s land and seas under protection by the end of 2030, a target known as “30 by 30”.
Economic interests have been a major sticking point throughout the last round of talks, with developing countries calling for a greater share of the spoils of the “blue economy”, including technology transfer.
A deal to share the benefits of “marine genetic resources” used in industries like biotech also remained a divisive issue until the end.
According to Greenpeace, 11 million square kilometers (4.2 million square miles) of ocean must be protected each year until 2030 to meet the goal.
“Countries need to formally adopt the treaty and ratify it as quickly as possible to bring it into force, and then provide the fully protected ocean sanctuaries our planet needs,” said Laura Meller, a Greenpeace ocean activist who attended the meetings. talks.
“The clock is still ticking to deliver 30 by 30. We have half a decade left and we cannot be complacent.”
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