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contract ahoy? Talks to protect the high seas begin on the final day

UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) – UN countries on Friday will seek to heal their differences to finally agree a treaty to protect the high seas, a fragile and vital treasure that covers nearly half the planet.

After more than 15 years of informal and then formal talks, negotiators are nearing the end of two more discussion weeks, the third “final” meeting in less than a year.

“I would like to ask all delegations to do some warm-up exercises and stretches and be ready to run the marathon to the finish line,” said Rena Lee, chair of the conference, which could take place late into the early hours of Saturday.

But on the eve of the planned end of the talks, longstanding disputes were still causing problems.

These include the process for creating marine protected areas, the model for environmental impact studies of proposed offshore activities, and the sharing of potential benefits of newly discovered marine resources.

“We’re still pretty far from a clean text,” said Liz Karan of the NGO Pew Charitable Trusts.

Observers are hoping for a political boost during the final stage from the Our Ocean conference taking place at the same time in Panama. Many government officials are there to discuss marine conservation and sustainable use.

“Life on earth depends on a healthy ocean,” said Monica Medina, US assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs.

She said a high seas agreement is “crucial” to ensure governments meet their commitment to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and oceans by 2030, as agreed in Montreal in December.

The high seas begin at the borders of countries’ exclusive economic zones, which extend up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from the coast. They therefore do not fall under the jurisdiction of any country.

While the high seas make up more than 60 percent of the world’s oceans and almost half of the earth’s surface, they have long attracted far less attention than coastal waters and some iconic species.

Only about one percent of the high seas is currently protected.

Marine ecosystems produce half of the oxygen that humans breathe and limit global warming by absorbing much of the carbon dioxide released by human activities.

– North-South ‘Justice’ –

But they are threatened by climate change, pollution and overfishing.

“I think despite all the different outstanding issues, and there’s a long list of them, overall I have a feeling that we’re going to reach an agreement in this session,” Greenpeace activist Li Shuo told AFP.

For him, the political will is there and everything boils down to “global north versus south” and whether “we have the fairness and justice we need in this deal”.

Developing countries that cannot afford costly research fear being left out, while others benefit from the commercialization of potential substances discovered in international waters.

In a move seen as an attempt to build trust between rich and poor countries, the European Union pledged 40 million euros ($42 million) in New York to facilitate the treaty’s ratification and early implementation.

At the Panama Conference, the EU also pledged $860 million for ocean exploration, monitoring and conservation in 2023.

Observers polled by AFP say resolving these politically sensitive financial issues could help solve other sticking points and eventually allow the text to go to the conference for approval.

“I think there is an obligation to try this. People haven’t given up yet,” said Nathalie Rey of the High Seas Alliance, which has more than 40 NGO members.

If an agreement is reached, it remains to be seen whether the compromises made will result in a text robust enough to effectively protect the oceans.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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