UN Failed To Reach A Consensus To Safeguard Biodiversity In High Seas
After two weeks of discussions, UN member states failed to reach a consensus on a treaty to safeguard biodiversity in the high seas, which would have addressed the escalating environmental and economic problems. It was hoped that the agreement, which was reached after the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in May, would be the final one to establish a legally binding international agreement under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Negotiators have been working on a legally binding agreement to address the numerous problems confronting international waterways, a region that makes up about half of the earth, for 15 years, including four earlier formal sessions. Despite making up roughly two thirds of the world's seas, only 1.2% of them are protected, according to international standards. Environmental activists have described it as a "missed opportunity."
The pact to address Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction, sometimes known as the "Paris Agreement for the Ocean," has been under discussion for several years. The ocean outside the Exclusive Economic Zones, which extend from a country's shore to around 200 nautical miles or 370 km into the sea and where it has exclusive rights for exploration, is the subject of the proposed treaty. Beyond that, the water is referred to as the open or high seas. The United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS), which established the rights of nations in relation to marine resources, was the framework under which the treaty was to be drafted. A UN resolution from 2017 resolved to fix this while setting 2022 as the deadline because there is currently no convention for maintaining the health of large portions of the earth's oceans.
Establishing marine protected areas to place restrictions on specific activities, obtaining environmental impact approvals or assessments for the sustainability of construction projects, providing financial assistance to countries, and exchanging other scientific knowledge were some aspects of the negotiations. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, this treaty must contain legally enforceable agreements in order to be effective. After the pandemic caused numerous delays, the High Ambition Coalition—which now includes more than 100 nations, including India, the US, and the UK—was established. Its goal is to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030. This would have an impact on deep sea mining operations, shipping lane routes, and fishing catch limits. Unless a special session is summoned, negotiations won't start again until next year after the most recent impasse.
According to the NASA website, the oceans account for 90% of global warming. The paper states that among the effects of ocean warming are changes in ocean chemistry and health, coral bleaching, the rapid melting of the Earth's major ice sheets, an increase in sea level due to thermal expansion, and more powerful hurricanes. According to the World Wildlife Fund, excessive fishing has grown significantly over time, and a third of species, including sharks and rays, are now in danger of going extinct. Members acknowledged the threats but could not come to a consensus on how to respond. There have been rumours of opposition from nations that engage in fishing or deep sea mining of minerals.
A 'Blue Economy' policy for India was approved by the Union Cabinet in June of last year. It is a nearly 4,000-crore programme spanning over five years that includes work on developing manned submersibles as well as "bio-prospecting of deep-sea flora and fauna including microbes." However, there was plenty of proof that the world's oceans were under greater pressure. If left unchecked, their combined impact would set off a catastrophic cycle that would prevent the oceans from providing many of the services that humans and other life depend on. Sustainable oceans and seas could aid in the eradication of poverty, long-term economic expansion, food security, and the development of sustainable livelihoods while assisting in the development of resiliency to the effects of climate change.
Although the issue of biodiversity is interconnected, the current marine policy and management framework, established by UNCLOS, is sectoral, lacking in scope, and out of step with the demands of the modern world. However, UNCLOS and the U.N. Fish Stocks Agreement are already two international accords that apply to high seas fisheries. Many of the impediments to the treaty's progress are essential for coming to a genuine accord. But not every. Despite the challenges, the following round of negotiations would eventually succeed. Protection of biodiversity in the high seas won't happen overnight. But even without a high seas treaty, there are many things that can be done now, like sharing scientific information and knowledge, halting plans for destructive activities like deep-sea mining, and promoting integrated, ecosystem-based management. A 2022 finish line is within reach. Nevertheless, as ocean degradation continues and will accelerate, it is important to start acting now, even before the treaty is agreed.