2020 rapidly approaching: pressure rises on governments to protect the High Seas

New York, 19th August 2019: From Monday 19th of August, the United Nations headquarters in New York will host the Third (and penultimate) Session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) negotiating an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The key objective of the OceanCare delegation is to include an urgently needed definition of transboundary pollution.

Over the next weeks (until 30th of August), UN member states will come together to continue their consideration on how to protect the two-thirds of the ocean that lie outside the jurisdiction of any country. They will do so by working on the draft text prepared by IGC President Rena Lee and her team of supporters. The High Seas is under serious threat from climate change and other anthropogenic impacts, such as underwater noise. “Unfortunately, there is currently no single overarching treaty that ensures proper designation, implementation and enforcement of marine protected areas, nor is there any instrument that ensures the proper implementation of environmental impact assessments in these parts of the ocean”, says Lora L. Nordtvedt Reeve, Senior Ocean Law Expert and head of the OceanCare delegation. A global decision-making body and other urgently needed institutional arrangements also remain absent. The negotiations are thus a once-in-a-generation opportunity for governments to provide protection for areas beyond national jurisdiction.

OceanCare will be participating at this crucial second last round of negotiations at the United Nations in New York with a delegation comprised of Lora L. Nordtvedt Reeve, Nicolas Entrup (Senior Ocean Policy Expert), Fabienne McLellan (Director International Relations) and Johannes Mueller (Ocean Policy Consultant). OceanCare will continue its efforts to convince governments that the High Seas treaty should establish a robust authority for considering transboundary pollution in the framework for the protection of biodiversity on the High Seas. On Wednesday, 21st of August, OceanCare will also have the honour to host a side-event with the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (FAO/GFCM). The objective of our side-event is to outline, using anthropogenic noise as a specific case, how governments can manage transboundary pollution and its impact through the new BBNJ instrument and the roles of existing organizations as important vehicles.

Delegates have been presented with a draft of a potential agreement which shows that progress has been made in the previous two rounds of negotiations since last year. Nonetheless, as past meetings have indicated, there is still inherent disagreement among governments on which principles and approaches to adopt. As we head to New York for the Third Session, we are wary of the continuing dissent, but we remain optimistic that delegates will undertake substantial efforts for reaching an agreement by the end of 2020.  Including a definition of transboundary pollution is urgently needed and the key objective of the OceanCare delegation.

With only one intergovernmental conference remaining after IGC 3, the negotiations are entering their final stages. To the extent possible, we will be providing an update via OceanCare’s social media channels and would recommend keeping up to speed through the High Seas Alliance’s Treaty Tracker.

OceanCare Briefing on Transboundary Pollution