President von der Leyen signed yesterday on behalf of the EU the Treaty for the High Seas, also known as the ‘Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction’ (BBNJ) treaty. This landmark treaty agreed in March this year is key to protect the ocean, tackle environmental degradation, fight climate change, and prevent biodiversity loss on the high seas. The signature ceremony took place in the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York, with the participation of Commissioner Sinkevičius as well as Prime Minister Sánchez of Spain in his capacity as representative of the Council Presidency.
The signing of the Agreement is a significant milestone on the way to meeting the global commitment of protecting at least 30% of the ocean by 2030 as agreed in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Agreement. The text of the Treaty was formally adopted on 19 June, by consensus, at UN Headquarters in New York, and now needs 60 ratifications to enter into force. Once in force, the Treaty will lead to improved ocean governance in the areas beyond national jurisdiction, which cover nearly two-thirds of the world’s ocean, and will establish large-scale Marine Protected Areas on the high seas. Its swift implementation would open up a clear pathway for achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Treaty also sets a framework for a fair and equitable sharing of monetary and non-monetary benefits from marine genetic resources, and for capacity building and transfer of marine technologies to developing countries.
The high seas provide invaluable ecological, economic, social and food security benefits to humanity and are in need of urgent protection. Currently, only about 1% of the high seas is protected, while they are under mounting human pressure linked to pollution, overexploitation, climate change and decreasing biodiversity.
The EU and its Member States played a key role in reaching the agreement back in March this year, by leading the BBNJ High Ambition Coalition of 52 countries. The EU has committed €40 million to support developing countries to ratify the BBNJ and its early implementation.