The member states of the UN reached an agreement this Saturday to create the first international treaty for the protection of the high seasdesigned to counteract the threats that weigh on vital ecosystems for the humanity.
“The ship came ashore,” announced the conference president, Rena Leeat the headquarters of the United Nations in New York shortly before 9:30 p.m. local time, to applause from delegates.
After more than 15 years of discussionsincluding four of formal talks, the third negotiating session in less than a year, announced the long-awaited consensus.
The treaty is considered essential to conserving 30% of the world’s land and oceans towards 2030 as agreed by the governments of the globe in an agreement signed in Montréal in December. Currently only 1% of the high seas is protected.
“This is a historic day for conservation and a sign that, in a divided world, protecting nature and people trumps geopolitics,” said Laura Meller of Greenpeace.
After two weeks of intense talks at the UN headquarters, including a marathon late-night session between Friday and Saturday, delegates finalized a text that cannot undergo significant alterations.
“There will be no reopening and no substantive negotiations,” Lee told negotiators.
The agreement will be formally adopted once it has been examined by legal experts and translated into the six official languages of the United Nationsadvertisement.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Anthony Guterrescongratulated the delegates, according to a spokesman who conveyed that this treaty was a “victory for multilateralism and for global efforts to counter destructive trends affecting the health of the oceans.”
The high seas begin where the Exclusive Economic Zones (ZEE) of the States, to a maximum of 370 km from the coast, so It is not under the jurisdiction of any country.
Despite representing more than 60% of the oceans and almost half of the planet, the high seas have long been ignored as attention has focused on the Coast zones and emblematic species.
With the advances of science, the importance of protecting all these oceans with an often microscopic biodiversity, which provides half the oxygen we breathe and limit global warming by absorbing an important part of the CO2 generated by human activity.
But the oceans are weakening, victims of these emissions (warming, water acidification), pollutants of all kinds and overfishing.
When the treaty enters into force after it has been formally adopted, signed and ratified by a sufficient number of countries, marine protected areas may be created in international waters.
“Life on Earth depends on a healthy ocean. The new high seas treaty will be vital to our common goal of protecting 30% of the oceans by 2030″, said in New York Mónica Medina, responsible for the oceans in the US Department of State.
The treaty on “the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas that do not depend on national jurisdiction” also introduces the obligation to carry out studies of environmental impact of the activities that are going to be carried out at sea.
Another very sensitive chapter that maintained tensions until the last minute is the principle of sharing the benefits of marine genetic resources from the high seas.
Developing countries that do not have the means to finance expensive expeditions and research have fought not to be excluded from the manna that awaits the possible commercialization by pharmaceutical or cosmetic companies of miraculous molecules from these marine organisms that do not belong to anyone.
As in other international forums, particularly in the climate negotiations, the debate has come down to a question of North-South equity, according to observers.
In an announcement perceived as a gesture to bolster North-South confidence, the European Union promised in New York 40 million euros ($42.4 million) to facilitate ratification of the treaty and its initial implementation.
Likewise, it announced in Panama more than 800 million euros ($848 million) to protect the oceans by 2023 at the “Our Oceans” conference that concluded on Friday.
In total, the Panamanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Janaina Tewaneyannounced “341 new commitments” for an amount of about 20,000 million dollars -of which about 6,000 million offered by the United States- that were adopted during this conference to protect the seas.
(With information from AFP)
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