UN High Seas Treaty still delayed: Greenpeace

“As countries keep talking, the oceans and everyone who depends on them will suffer,” said Laura Meller of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign.

Two weeks of UN negotiations for a high seas treaty have ended in failure, with rich countries slowing the process and Russia acting as “a key obstacle” in the talks, according to Greenpeace.

This will jeopardize ambitions to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, according to a press release from the environmental nonprofit.

About two-thirds of the world’s oceans lie outside the jurisdiction of any nation and are largely unprotected from pressures such as overfishing, pollution and resource extraction. A United Nations treaty on the high seas has been in the works for more than a decade and would be the first legally binding framework to protect these waters.

This latest round of negotiations has shown that countries like Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and the European Union have passed up a “once in a generation opportunity to protect half the planet” , Sarah King, Greenpeace Canada’s head of oceans and plastics, said in a press release. Negotiations concluded on Friday.

A coalition of more than 50 countries – including Canada – has pledged to push to finalize a strong high seas treaty this year, but unless ministers call an emergency meeting to finish negotiations, talks will probably continue into 2023.

“Apparently two decades of talks and catastrophic losses to marine food chains, ecosystems and frontline communities are not enough motivation for governments to accept [on] a blueprint for ocean recovery,” King said.

While Pacific island and Caribbean groups struggled to finalize the treaty from the get-go, northern nations waited until the 11th hour to find compromises, said Laura Meller of the Protect the Oceans campaign. Greenpeace in the press release.

The Pacific Islands region is threatened by a myriad of climate impacts, from dangerous sea level rise to the degradation of coral reefs. Fisheries are a key source of food, jobs and economic development for the region, and lesser-known threats from climate change, such as ocean acidification, can and will harm the health of marine species. At the same time, these small island states are only responsible for a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

“Failure to conclude a treaty at these talks jeopardizes the livelihoods and food security of billions of people around the world,” Meller said. “As countries continue to talk, the oceans and all who depend on them will suffer.”

Carol N. Valencia