Environment. UN member states ‘closer than ever’ to high seas treaty

After two weeks of negotiations, the member states of the UN were « closer than ever » on Friday to finalizing the treaty to protect the high seas, but several disputes remained to be overcome to snatch this crucial agreement for the ocean, fragile treasure and vital for humanity.

After more than 15 years of informal and then formal discussions to produce a binding text aimed at protecting this vast area which covers nearly half of the planet, calls for this fifth session to finally be the last have multiplied lately. month.

But, a few hours before the official closing of the negotiations, the new version of the text distributed to delegates on Friday morning, seen by theAFPstill included many paragraphs open to negotiation.

“We are closer to the finish line than we have ever been in this process,” conference president Rena Lee said Friday afternoon during a short plenary session intended to inform all progress delegates.

« That being said, we cannot be complacent, tough negotiations still await us to get there, » she added, adding that she would re-evaluate later in the evening as some observers now expect what discussions continue in the night from Friday to Saturday.

“Difficult” negotiations

Among the explosive subjects, the distribution of the possible profits resulting from the exploitation of the genetic resources of the high seas, where pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic industries hope to discover miraculous molecules.

Responding to requests from developing countries who are afraid of missing out on potential benefits because they cannot conduct this costly research, the latest draft text leaves on the table the initial redistribution of 2% – and eventually up to 8% – – future sales of products from these resources that do not belong to anyone. But still in square brackets, meaning no agreement.

Greenpeace also accused Thursday the EU, the United States and Canada of precipitating these negotiations towards a failure because of their « greed » to keep these resources for themselves. Accusations rejected by a European negotiator.

These questions of North-South equity cross many international negotiations, in particular those on the climate where the developing countries victims but not responsible for the warming claim in vain to the rich countries to respect their promises of financial assistance.

“The negotiations are difficult. We don’t see a text that satisfies all delegations, » theAFP a diplomatic source from a developing country, saying that some key chapters were « not ambitious enough » and lamenting the lack of « flexibility of our partners ».

Despite everything, some keep the hope of avoiding a 6th session. “This is the last step and the delegates are working hard to reach an agreement,” said theAFP Liz Karan, of the NGO Pew Charitable Trusts.

The high seas are not protected

This treaty specifically targets the high seas which begins where the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the States end, at a maximum of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coast, and which is therefore not under the jurisdiction of any country.

While the good health of marine ecosystems is crucial for the future of humanity, in particular to limit global warming, only 1% of this space, which represents 60% of the oceans, is protected.

One of the pillars of the treaty on “the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction” is to allow the creation of marine protected areas there. « A crucial step in efforts to protect at least 30% of the planet by 2030, » said Maxine Burkett, an oceans official at the US State Department.

But the delegations still disagree on the process of creating these areas, as well as on the methods of application of the obligation of environmental impact studies before a new activity on the high seas.

« They have made a lot of progress since the start of negotiations two weeks ago on very controversial issues », however commented to theAFP Klaudija Cremers, researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), who like several NGOs has an observer seat in the negotiations. “That could be the boost for a deal.”


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