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UN seeks agreement on productive ocean




An underwater sculpture at Molinere Bay, in the Marine Protected Area of Grenada. UN photo

While the world’s oceans contain some 200,000 identified living species, the actual number could reach millions — all exposed to the dangers of climate change, pollution and overexploitation. To stem these threats, the United Nations (UN) is meeting to negotiate a treaty that would protect three-quarters of the earth’s surface by 2030.

The Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument kicked off its third of four rounds of UN meetings toward achieving a global treaty for the oceans under the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea, known as UNCLOS.

“I’m confident that our common interest in providing future generations with a healthy, resilient and productive ocean will continue to guide delegations in their negotiations,” said Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, in his remarks opening the session at UN Headquarter in New York, which aims to reach an agreement by the first half of 2020.

Since their last meeting, the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has revealed that, across most of the globe, humans have significantly altered nature, with ecosystems and biodiversity showing rapid decline, he said.

Due to projected impacts of increasing land- and sea-use change, exploitation of organisms and climate change, negative trends are expected to continue through 2050 and beyond, according to the report.

It further notes that 66 percent of the ocean are experiencing increasing cumulative human impacts, primarily from climate change stressors, including sea surface temperature anomalies, ocean acidification and ultraviolet radiation.