The greatest opportunity in a generation to conserve ocean life and diversity on a global scale and safeguard 2/3 of the world’s ocean is happening right now. World governments are in the final stages of negotiating a new treaty under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) – the first ever to focus on conserving and ensuring sustainable use of biodiversity of the ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), which includes the water column or “the high seas” and the seabed below. Comprising nearly half the planet, the high seas are a true global common.
The global ocean supports a multi-trillion dollar global economy and provides billions of people with food security and jobs, yet it is staggering under increasing human pressures and the effects of climate change. Just recently in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework the world’s governments supported the target to protect at least 30% of our global ocean by 2030. Currently, only 1.2% of the high seas is protected; this 30% goal can only be reached through a new High Seas Treaty.
With new and emerging threats facing the ocean every single day, we need political leadership to reach a robust treaty at the resumed 5th Intergovernmental Negotiating Conference in 2023 (20th February-3rd March), that dramatically improves conservation and management of our shared global ocean commons. This requires political will and diplomatic outreach at the highest levels, combined with flexibility at a technical level while maintaining high ambition.
To ensure that the Treaty goes well beyond the status quo and is worthy of the decades of effort to address ocean governance gaps, it must provide — at a minimum — the elements outlined in the 2023 document: What does ambition look like for the High Seas Treaty?