International negotiations to protect the high seas advancing at ‘snail’s pace’

"Until now, states had made major statements to clarify their positions. This time, they have entered into substantive discussions, although there are still many uncertainties," Klaudija Cremers, a research fellow in international marine policy at IDDRI noted. [EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE]

The third session of negotiations on the preservation of marine biodiversity in the high seas, held under a UN Intergovernmental Conference, ended in New York on 30 August. However, negotiations only resulted in a framework for a future treaty. EURACTIV’s partner le Journal de l’environnement reports.

Negotiations revolved around four key themes, including so-called ‘benefit-sharing’ of marine genetic resources, marine area management tools including for marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments, as well as the transfer of marine technology.

Not surprisingly, the first two issues were met with more resistance, according to Klaudija Cremers, a research fellow in international marine policy at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI).

“Until now, states had made major statements to clarify their positions. This time, they have entered into substantive discussions, although there are still many uncertainties,” the research fellow noted.

Sharing arrangements

“States agreed on including the modalities on sharing the benefits of marine genetic resources in the treaty’s text, without wanting to postpone the matter to future negotiations. They have also agreed to consider non-monetary benefits,” Cremers added.

However, there is still considerable uncertainty as to who receives the benefits and whether sharing is mandatory.

“Progress is sometimes slow”

For its part, Greenpeace noted that there is insufficient political will considering the urgency of the situation.

“It is very disappointing to see that ambitions do not match the level of urgency required to save our oceans from climate change, and address the massive loss of biodiversity,” the NGO said.

More measured, Pew Charitable Trusts also regretted that “progress is sometimes slow”.

Although the next session of the UN negotiations will be held from 23 March to 3 April 2020, this may not be the last. That is because some states are already deeming some additional sessions necessary.

Why the ocean should be on the G7 agenda

Surfrider Europe, a French organisation fighting for clean oceans,  is organising an event ahead of the G7 summit in France. The aim is to call for incorporating ocean protection into international negotiations, particularly those concerning climate change. EURACTIV’s partner la Tribune reports.

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