Wait continues for treaty to protect oceans

By Mario Villar

United Nations, Aug 26 (EFE).- A treaty for protection of oceans remains to be signed, after two weeks of negotiations at the UN concluded Friday without an agreement, although hopes remain for it to be rolled out soon.

Late at night in New York, the negotiators threw in the towel and decided that more time was needed to reach this international pact that has been on the negotiating table since 2018.

The chair of the conference discussing the treaty, Rena Lee, announced that the fifth and final round of negotiations would be suspended and discussions would resume later at a date yet to be decided.

According to Lee, they are currently closer than ever to the goal, but would need a little more time to conclude the process.

The treaty negotiated by countries around the world seeks to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, areas commonly known as the high seas.

Environmentalists consider a treaty on the matter fundamental to guarantee the future of the oceans.

Negotiations officially began in 2018 and the goal was to have a treaty by 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic forced the entire process to be delayed.

Now, the goal was to have an agreement in 2022, something that has been complicated by the failure of this round of negotiations.

According to Greenpeace, if there is no treaty by this year, it will be very difficult to meet the target of protecting 30 percent of the ocean area by 2030 – a goal set by many countries and considered by scientists to be the minimum necessary to allow marine ecosystems to recover from the pressure to which they are subjected.

Pollution, climate change, and the new technologies that open the door to deep-sea mining and more intensive fishing are, according to experts, the main threats to the high seas, which accounts for two-thirds of the total oceans.

“While it’s disappointing that the treaty wasn’t finalized during the past two weeks of negotiations, we remain encouraged by the progress that was made,” said Liz Karan of the NGO Pew Charitable Trusts, calling for a new session by the end of the year.

Gladys Martinez, executive director of the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), stressed that a notable advance had been seen in the negotiations and trusted that the next stage would result in the conclusive treaty.

AIDA hopes the treaty will provide for the establishment of marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments with minimum standards, fair and equitable access to marine genetic resources, and the creation and transfer of technologies.

The latter issues, mainly marine genetic resources – species that can provide patentable genes in the future, for example for use in medicine – have, according to Greenpeace, been one of the major problems in the negotiations.

It holds the European Union, the United States, and other rich countries responsible for this, which it has accused of prioritizing the hypothetical benefits that they could gain rather than seeking compromises.

Greenpeace also pointed to Russia as an obstacle in the negotiations, and said the Pacific Islands and Caribbean countries have been the most pushing forward on the treaty. EFE


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