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The United Nations calls for ambitious measures to protect the oceans

#United #Nations #calls #ambitious #measures #protect #oceans

World leaders must do more to protect the oceans, a major United Nations conference that ended on Friday targeting a new deal to protect the high seas.

“Greater ambition is needed at all levels to address the dire state of the oceans,” said the UN Oceanic Conference in Lisbon in its final statement.

The meeting in the Portuguese capital, which will be attended by government officials, experts and advocates from 140 countries, is not a negotiation forum.

But it does set the agenda for final international negotiations in August for an agreement to protect the high seas — those international waters that elude national jurisdiction.

“The loss of biodiversity, the deteriorating health of the oceans, the way the climate crisis is unfolding…everything has a common ground, which is…human behavior, our dependence on oil and gas, and they all need to be addressed,” he said Peter Thomson, the UN special envoy for the ocean, told AFP.

Oceans produce half of the oxygen we breathe, regulate the weather, and provide humanity’s greatest source of protein.

They also absorb a quarter of the CO2 pollution and 90 percent of the excess heat from global warming, playing a key role in protecting life on Earth.

But they are marginalized by human activities.

Seawater has become acidic, threatening aquatic food chains and the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon. Global warming has produced massive ocean heat waves that are destroying coral reefs and expanding dead zones without oxygen.

Humans have fished some marine species to the brink of extinction and used the world’s waters as a dumping ground.

– patchwork of agreements –

Today, a patchwork of agreements and regulatory bodies regulate shipping, fishing, and the extraction of minerals from the seabed.

Thomson said he was “very confident” national governments could agree on a “robust but workable” deep-seas treaty in August.

Tiago Pitta e Cunha, head of Portugal’s Oceano Azul (Blue Ocean) foundation, said: “Pressure on less interested countries has greatly increased to create an effective mechanism to protect the high seas.”

Greenpeace’s Laura Meller called for more action.

“We know that if words could save the oceans, they would not be on the brink of collapse,” she told AFP.

“So in August, when governments meet at the United Nations, they really need to have a strong global ocean agreement.”

Efforts to protect the oceans will continue later this year at two key summits – the UN climate talks in November and the UN biodiversity negotiations in December.

– overfishing, mining, plastic –

At the heart of the draft of the UN biodiversity agreement is the plan to designate 30 percent of the earth’s land areas and oceans as protected areas by 2030.

Less than eight percent of the oceans are currently protected.

A number of new, protected sea areas could be closed to fishing, mining, drilling or other extractive activities that scientists say are disrupting delicate seabed ecosystems.

Making matters worse is an endless stream of pollution, including a garbage truck’s worth of plastic every minute, the United Nations says.

“The sea is not a garbage dump,” warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday. “It’s not a source of infinite plunder. It’s a fragile system that we all depend on.”

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