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Protection of the High Seas | Negotiations begin on Monday for the first international treaty

(United Nations) UN member states on Monday begin two weeks of negotiations to finally try to put together a treaty to protect the high seas and avert new damage that could lead to evaporation on the horizon with the goal of preserving 30% of the planet by 2030.

“last”? After more than 15 years of informal and then formal discussions, this is the third time in less than a year that negotiators have met in New York for what is supposed to be the last session.

But this time, at the dawn of two weeks of discussions through March 3, cautious optimism appears to be in order for this session to be the right one, emboldened by the landmark agreement reached in December in Montreal during COP15 on biodiversity.

Then, all countries in the world committed to protecting 30% of all land and oceans by 2030. A challenge that would be almost impossible without including the high seas, of which only 1% is currently protected.

Pepe Clarke of the WWF commented: “We are optimistic that COP15 has given governments the necessary push to get this deal across the finish line.”

The high seas begin where the states’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs) end, up to a maximum of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coastline, and are therefore not under the jurisdiction of any nation.

Although they account for more than 60% of the oceans and nearly half of the planet, they have long been ignored, in favor of coastal areas and a few emblematic species.

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However, Nathalie Ray of the High Seas Coalition, which groups some forty NGOs, said that “there is only one ocean, and a healthy ocean means a healthy planet”.

Ocean ecosystems, threatened by climate change, pollution of all kinds and overfishing, produce in particular half of the oxygen we breathe and limit global warming by absorbing a large portion of carbon dioxide.2 emitted from human activities.

” last chance ”

So despite the optimism that has emerged and the informal negotiations that have taken place since the last session in August to move things forward, ocean advocates warn against sinking.

“If they fail again, it challenges the process a bit,” Liz Karan of the Pew Charitable Trusts told AFP.

“We are already over the allotted time. These discussions are the last chance for success.” Laura Miller of Greenpeace insisted in a statement that governments must not fail.

The draft text on the table, replete with brackets and multiple options, reflects the many contentious issues that remain.

The principle of establishing marine protected areas is included in the mandate of this future treaty on “the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction,” but delegations remain divided on the process for establishing such reserves.

Nor are the methods of implementing the obligation to assess the environmental impact of activities contemplated on the high seas not unanimous.

And the distribution of the potential profits from exploiting the genetic resources of the high seas, where the pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic industries hope to discover breakthrough molecules, is one of the most tense points.

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Without access to this costly research, developing countries fear they will miss out on the potential benefits. During the August session, observers accused rich countries, particularly the European Union, of waiting until the last minute to make a move.

To make ocean advocates heard around the world, American actress and activist Jane Fonda is set to present conference chair Rina Lee Monday night with a petition of 5 million signers demanding a “strong” treaty.

Because with such a complex and vast treaty, which will also have to come to terms with other organizations that today control parts of the ocean, fish or mine the seabed, even if there is a deal, the devil is in the details, ocean advocates worry.