UN Agrees on High Seas Treaty
After 15 years of tough negotiations at the United Nations for an international agreement to protect the world’s oceans, a breakthrough has been achieved.
The main aim of the negotiations in New York was for at least 30 per cent of the world’s oceans to be designated as protected areas in the future. In addition, a procedure was established to check economic projects, expeditions and other sea activities for their environmental compatibility. The agreement also intends to place biological diversity on the high seas under internationally binding protection. Two-thirds of the oceans belong to the high seas and are, therefore, unlawful.
The agreement must now be reviewed by lawyers and translated into the six official languages of the United Nations – before it can be formally adopted. Lee ruled out a resumption of negotiations or substantive discussions. However, the treaty still has to be ratified by the member states.
Immediately before the breakthrough in New York, there was an agreement at another ocean conference in Panama: the participants pledged almost 20 billion US dollars (18.8 billion euros) to protect the seas. The US government alone promised nearly six billion dollars for 77 projects.
Most recently, the complicated negotiations at the fifth conference between the UN member states dealt with determining which parts of the high seas are to be defined as protected areas in future. According to diplomats, China and Russia, in particular, insisted that this must be done unanimously – then a single country could have blocked every decision.
This has now apparently been circumvented: On Sunday night, diplomatic circles reported that the protected areas should already be able to be determined with a three-quarters majority of the member states.
Another key conflict revolved around potentially profitable research findings that nobody knows whether they will ever become a reality: Scientists hope that the discovery of previously unknown creatures in the deep sea, which has hardly been explored, and their genome will lead to breakthroughs in medicine, for example.
On this question, the countries of the so-called Global South wrestled primarily with the leading industrialised countries in the North. Since the most significant economies are also likely to receive the most expected returns, a mechanism for compensatory payments to poorer countries has been established. According to information from the DPA news agency, the compromise that has been reached provides for annual lump sum payments by the industrialised countries.