Belgium calls for urgent action to protect the world's oceans
Every second breath a human being takes, is thanks to the oceans. Yet the member states of the United Nations have been failing for years in their efforts to conclude a binding treaty to stop the decline of the oceans. At an event in the margins of the General Assembly in New York, Belgium called for action.
"The high seas cover most of our planet and are a powerful buffer in the fight against global warming. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to provide them with the necessary protection so that they can continue to give us prosperity and well-being", Belgian federal minister of Justice and the North Sea Vincent Van Quickenborne said.
Van Quickenborne hosted an event of the Blue Leaders on Wednesday. Among others, the prime minister of Curacao, the president of the Seychelles and ministers from Ecuador, Chile and Panama were present. Belgium leads this alliance of more than 30 countries and partner organisations campaigning for two goals: to protect 30 percent of the oceans by 2030 and to achieve a binding treaty to protect the high seas.
"We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to provide the high seas with the necessary protection so that they can continue to give us prosperity and well-being"
Another attempt to reach an agreement on this long-awaited treaty failed in New York a month ago. It has been under discussion for 15 years, but member states have widely differing views and interests. One point of contention is the sharing of potential benefits from the exploitation of resources provided by the high seas.
The convention should allow for the establishment of protected national parks on the high seas. In order to have an impact, at least 30 percent of the oceans should be able to enjoy such a status. Currently, only one percent of marine ecosystems are protected.
Oceans cover 70 percent of the Earth's surface. They play an important role in regulating the climate and the overall human existence and biodiversity. For instance, they produce at least half of all oxygen on the planet and are home to 80 percent of life on earth. Climate change, pollution, overfishing and oil and gas extraction pose a major threat to these vital functions.
Belgium, which protects 37 percent of its territory in the North Sea, and the other Blue Leaders are setting their sights on Montreal, where a conference on the UN Biodiversity Convention will be held at the end of this year. It is hoped that member states will agree there on protecting 30 percent of the oceans.
"The high seas are a powerful buffer in the fight against global warming", Belgian federal minister of Justice and the North Sea Vincent Van Quickenborne said. © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK