UN Oceans Conference Sees Steps Toward Deal on the High Seas

LISBON, Portugal (AP) – The United Nations hopes that a conference starting on Monday will bring new impetus to protracted efforts to find an international agreement on protecting the world’s oceans.

The five-day UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, drew senior officials and scientists from more than 120 countries to the Atlantic port city in southwestern Europe, as well as activists dismayed by the failure to create international rules that can ensure sustainability. of the oceans.

No comprehensive legal framework covers the high seas. Oceans cover about 70% of the Earth’s surface and provide food and livelihoods for billions of people. Some activists refer to them as the largest unregulated area on the planet.

The oceans face a “serious” threat from global warming, pollution, acidification and other problems, the UN says. Potentially harmful deep-sea mining also lacks rules.

The conference is expected to adopt a declaration that, while not binding on its signatories, can help implement and facilitate the protection and conservation of the oceans and their resources, according to the UN. The statement must be approved on Friday.

But a vital new international agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction, otherwise known as the High Seas Treaty, is still out of reach.

This treaty is being negotiated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is the main international agreement governing human maritime activities.

After 10 years of negotiations, however, including a fourth round of talks three months ago, a deal is still not in sight. The fifth round is scheduled for August in New York.

“The world’s largest ecosystem is still unprotected and dying as we watch,” activist group Ocean Rebellion said ahead of the Lisbon event.

Activists plan demonstrations in the port city of Atlântico during the event.

Despite the frustrations, the conference is “an important opportunity to accelerate” steps towards a high seas treaty, the UN says, as delegates informally debate possible ways forward.

The conference is also expected to reaffirm and build on the approximately 62 commitments made by governments at the previous summit in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2018, from protecting small island states with ocean-based economies to sustainable fisheries and combating global warming. . Funding models for ocean conservation are also on this year’s agenda, as well as presenting innovative science-based solutions that can improve ocean health.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, US climate envoy John Kerry and French President Emmanuel Macron are among those participating in a few days of the event.

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