United Nations – The United Nations on Monday adopted the first legally binding international agreement. Known as the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty (BBNJ), but also widely referred to as the “Treaty on the High Seas,” the measure, adopted by the 193 UN member states, lays down rules to protect the environment and avoid disputes over natural resources, shipping and other matters stuck in waters outside of a country’s national jurisdiction.
Until now there has never been an international law regulating the high seas. As such, many individuals and organizations are hoping that the UN’s passage of the measure will mark a clear turning point for much of the planet where conservation efforts have long struggled in a sort of wilderness west of exploration, overfishing, oil exploration and deep-sea mining.
“They have delivered,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told member states on Monday after the treaty was approved. “And you did so at a critical time.”
What is the purpose of a deep sea treaty?
“To prevent a cascading extinction of species, we agreed last year on the Global Biodiversity Framework target of protecting 30% of the planet’s land and sea surface by 2030,” said Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for the planet Oceans, opposite CBS Message. “To achieve that goal, we need to establish marine protected areas on the high seas, and fortunately the BBNJ Treaty will give us the legal means to do so.”
“Approximately two-thirds of the world’s oceans lie beyond national borders in an area known as the ‘high seas’ – yet only about 1% of this largely unexplored area is protected. In this year, almost 200 nations finally agreed on the first treaty “Protect the high seas,” they say Conservation International said the organization.
The only treaty that came close before that was the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into force three decades ago. However, this treaty regulated the seas within the country’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zones, leaving almost half of the earth’s surface and two-thirds of the oceans unregulated – especially when it comes to protecting biodiversity. The new High Seas Treaty was agreed on the basis of the previous Law of the Sea treaty.
“The high seas are among the last truly wild places on Earth,” said Monica Medina, the deputy secretary of the US Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, who was the Biden administration’s chief negotiator and a supporter of the treaty.
“It is often said that the ocean is too big to fail. That’s just not true,” Medina said. “The ocean is more delicate than most people realize. He is also more important. It provides the oxygen we breathe and food for tens of millions of people.”
Nichola Clark, who works with the Pew Charitable Trusts’ ocean governance project, told CBS News the treaty is “vitally important to our climate because the world’s oceans “play an important role in regulating our climate — by absorbing carbon dioxide and absorb excess heat from the atmosphere”. that regulate temperatures and control our global weather patterns.”
So what does the contract say? Here are the most important points:
- MPAs: The treaty creates a framework for “marine protected areas“—beyond those already within national territorial waters—to counteract the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ocean ecosystems caused by the impacts of climate change, including ocean warming and acidification, as well as plastics, pollutants and overfishing.
- It establishes standards and guidelines to determine the environmental impacts of activities on the high seas, including their impact on marine life and ecosystems. It obliges signatory countries to submit an assessment of the pollution or other impacts of their planned activities on the high seas, such as deep-sea mining.
- The treaty establishes a Conference of the Parties (COP) to monitor and enforce compliance with the terms of the treaty. This also includes a scientific advisory board.
- It creates a mechanism for the transfer of marine technology to developing countries to ensure fair sharing Benefits and resources from the high seas, including materials that could prove game-changing in medicine and nutritional science.
Final hurdle: national ratifications
There is one final hurdle – 60 to be precise – that the new treaty still has to overcome: it will only come into force 120 days after ratification by at least 60 UN member states individually. In the US, that means Senate approval.
Clark of the Pew Charitable Trusts told CBS News he hopes the required 60 ratifications will be in place by the next UN ocean conference, scheduled for summer 2025.
“As with all treaties, ratification is key to their entry into force and only then can we realize the benefits that will result. All parties should work towards that being achieved by the next UN maritime conference in Nice in June 2025. “France,” the UN’s Thomson told CBS News.
But as a sign of the work still to be done, Russian delegate Sergei Leonidchenko made it clear on Monday that his country “is distancing itself from the consensus on the text of the agreement prepared at the conference.”
While Moscow made no attempt to block the UN’s adoption of the treaty, its comments made it clear that Russia was not yet expected to ratify any of the 60 required, and called the written international treaty “unacceptable.”