High Seas Treaty: UN Secretary General Delivers Urgent Message

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High Seas Treaty: UN Secretary General Delivers Urgent Message

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The high seas begin where the states' exclusive economic zones end, a maximum of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from shore . It is therefore not under the authority of any country.

The UN Secretary-General put pressure on High Seas Treaty negotiators on Wednesday, calling for a “robust and ambitious” text to protect the ocean, two days from the end of the talks that seem to have found a second wind.

We can no longer ignore the urgency for the ocean, Antonio Guterres said in a message to delegations gathered in New York from February 20 until Friday.

The consequences of climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution are deeply felt across the planet, affecting our environment, our livelihoods and our lives.

By adopting a robust and ambitious agreement at this session, you can take an important step towards countering these destructive trends and improving the health of the oceans for the benefit of future generations, the Secretary-General insisted.

After more than 15 years of informal and then formal discussions, representatives of UN member states are meeting for the third final round of negotiations in less than a year and trying to avoid further damage.

The high seas begin where the States' Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) end, a maximum of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from shore. It is therefore not under the authority of any country.

Representing more than 60% of the oceans and almost half of the planet, it is crucial for the protection of the entire ocean, itself vital for humanity.

The updated draft text released midterm on Saturday was still riddled with parentheses and multiple options on some major topics, but as the deadline approached, the atmosphere seemed more optimistic on Wednesday .

In the first week it was going in circles, but we feel the pace is picking up and opinions are coming together, Greenpeace's Laura Meller told AFP, who believes now that a strong and comprehensive treaty is truly within [our] reach.

I wouldn't call it ambitious, but I think it would be strong enough to be meaningful, to implement something that states can build on, said Glen Wright, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

Despite the progress made since the beginning of the week, welcomed on Wednesday by several delegations, there are still many differences, in particular on the terms of creation and application of marine protected areas, an emblematic tool of the future treaty.

China is singled out in this regard. It pushes in fact so that these sanctuaries can only be created by the future Conference of the Parties (COP, which will bring together all the future signatories) by consensus, which creates a de facto right of veto. It also asks for an explicit reference to the fact that the disputed maritime areas are excluded from the treaty.

However, it was under the Chinese presidency that last December, in Montreal , all of the world's governments have pledged to protect 30% of the world's land and oceans by 2030. But this is a near impossible challenge without including the high seas, of which only about 1% is protected today.

Not everything is settled either in terms of environmental impact studies for activities planned on the high seas.

Another highly political dispute, the distribution of possible benefits from the exploitation of genetic resources of the high seas, where the pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic industries hope to discover miraculous molecules.

Many differences remain, particularly on the terms of creation and application of marine protected areas.

This is a potential windfall that developing countries fear they will be left out of because they lack the means to conduct this very expensive research.

A proposal on the table suggests that the future COP come back to this subject later, when the benefits will actually be there, and that a mandatory financial contribution to the operation of the treaty be created in the meantime.

But time is running out. Tick-tock, tick-tock, Negotiations Chair Rena Lee said in a short plenary session on Wednesday.

I encourage you all to put your all into it. energy and all your efforts, get out the sleeping bags and work really hard.

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