EU Council Greenlights Conclusion of High Seas Treaty

The European Union (EU) has given its formal approval for the conclusion of the United Nations agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), commonly referred to as the High Seas Treaty. This decision, adopted by the EU Council of Ministers, represents a significant milestone in the protection and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The High Seas Treaty, established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is designed to safeguard and sustainably manage the world’s oceans, covering approximately two-thirds of the ocean’s surface and 95% of its volume. The primary focus of the agreement is on preserving, restoring, and maintaining biological diversity and ecosystems, accompanied by measures for effective implementation and international coordination.

Key components of the treaty include provisions for ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources, the establishment of marine protected areas on the high seas, rules and procedures for environmental impact assessments, and support for capacity-building and technology transfer to developing countries.

The EU and its member states have shown particular dedication to establishing marine protected areas on the high seas and seabed, aligning with the global objective to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030 as outlined in the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework. The implementation of the High Seas Treaty is anticipated to be a game-changer in meeting this target.

The BBNJ agreement requires ratification by 60 countries or organisations to enter into force. Seven countries have ratified the treaty, and 89 have signed it. The agreement will officially take effect 120 days after the 60th ratification.

The EU’s role in the negotiations and adoption of the High Seas Treaty has been instrumental, with the journey beginning in March 2018 when the Council authorised the Commission to participate in the negotiations. Following the successful completion of negotiations in March 2023 and its adoption by the UN General Assembly in June 2023, the EU signed the treaty in September 2023, subject to its conclusion at a later date. With the recent decision of the Council, the EU is poised to formally deposit the ratification instrument before the next UN Ocean Conference in June 2025.

The High Seas Treaty addresses significant gaps in ocean protection, with only about 1% of the high seas currently protected. It provides a framework for the creation of marine protected areas, with the potential to significantly contribute to reducing climate change and protecting biodiversity. Additionally, the treaty supports the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources and facilitates capacity building and technology transfer to developing countries.

The EU has pledged support for the treaty’s implementation, particularly for developing countries, through the EU Global Ocean Programme, while also encouraging other major donors to contribute to these efforts. By ratifying the High Seas Treaty, the EU aims to enhance global coordination and synergies among ocean-related activities, representing a significant advancement in international environmental governance.

The adoption of the High Seas Treaty by the EU Council underscores the Union’s commitment to global ocean conservation efforts and sets the stage for enhanced cooperation in the protection and sustainable use of marine resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

LinkedIn
Twitter
WhatsApp
Facebook
Email
Print