UN talks collapse over deal to protect world’s oceans, jeopardising 2030 pledge

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Countries have failed to reach agreement on protecting the future of the global ocean as campaigners condemned leaders for “jeopardising the livelihoods and food security of billions of people around the world”.

After a two-week summit at the United Nations in New York, international talks over a first-of-its-kind Ocean Treaty collapsed late on Friday.

It was the fifth round of negotiations over a treaty that has been negotiated for nearly two decades. Countries intend to resume talks at a later date, Earth Negotiations Bulletin reported.

There are currently no legal protections for the “high seas” – some two-thirds of international waters which are not bound to any one country, and open to shipping, fishing and research for all.

The ocean, which covers 70 per cent of the planet and sustains life on Earth, is under a multi-pronged attack from the climate crisis, environmental pollution and industry exploitation.

It was hoped that an Ocean Treaty would create “marine protected areas” to allow biodiversity to flourish, and require environmental assessments for heavy industry such as deep-sea mining.

The treaty appears to have failed after roadblocks from some wealthy nations, seriously jeopardising a promise made by dozens of countries to protect 30 per cent of oceans by 2030.

Greenpeace accused the US and the “High Ambition Coalition” – a group which includes the European Union and its 27 member states – of not showing “enough ambition or urgency until the final hours”.

Russia was also a key blocker in negotiations, according to Greenpeace. The country, which has been subject to international sanctions since it invaded Ukraine in February, refused to engage in the treaty process or compromise with the EU and other countries on issues, the environmental group reported.

“As a result, they have failed to deliver a strong Global Ocean Treaty that can protect the high seas. They promised a Treaty in 2022, and time has all but run out,” said Dr Laura Meller, of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign, in a statement, adding that “failure to deliver a Treaty at these talks jeopardises the livelihoods and food security of billions of people around the world”.

Scientists say that more than 4 million square miles (11m sq km) of ocean must be protected every year this decade if the “30x30” goal is to be met.