“We need more ambition at all levels to respond to the disastrous situation of the ocean”, summarizes the declaration adopted Friday at the end of five days of debates devoted to the fragile health of the oceans, in which some 7,000 took part. politicians, experts and activists.
“The loss of biodiversity, the declining health of the ocean and the evolving climate crisis all have a common purpose — human behavior and our addiction to oil and gas — and all need to be addressed.” , said the special envoy for the ocean of the United Nations, Peter Thomson, in an interview with AFP.
The seas, which cover more than two-thirds of the planet’s surface, generate half of the oxygen we breathe and play a key role for life on Earth by mitigating the impacts of climate change.
But the cost is considerable. By absorbing around a quarter of CO2 pollution, even as emissions have increased by 50% over the past 60 years, the sea has become more acidic, destabilizing aquatic food chains and reducing its ability to capture ever more gases. carbonic.
– End of year deadlines –
The Lisbon meeting is not a formal negotiation session; it was not intended to seal concrete decisions but to prepare the ground for the important appointments scheduled between now and the end of the year.
The first deadline will arrive in August with new discussions in New York on a treaty on the protection of biodiversity in the high seas, that is to say beyond areas of national jurisdiction.
Mr. Thomson said he was “very confident” in the ability of the international community to complete an agreement “both robust and applicable” as early as next month.
According to Tiago Pitta e Cunha, head of the Portuguese foundation Oceano Azul, “the pressure has increased a lot for countries less interested in creating an effective mechanism for the protection of the high seas”.
“If words could save the oceans, they wouldn’t be on the brink of breaking. So when governments meet in August at the United Nations, they really need to make a strong ocean treaty,” said Laura Meller, of environmental NGO Greenpeace.
The calendar should then accelerate with the UN climate conference COP27 scheduled for November in Egypt, followed in December by the highly anticipated UN biodiversity conference COP15, which will take place in Canada under the Chinese presidency.
– Overfishing and plastic pollution –
While less than 10% of the world’s oceans are currently protected, 100 countries have joined a coalition calling for 30% of the planet’s land and ocean surface to be reserved for protected areas by 2030, a potential flagship measure of the meeting. from Montreal.
Discussions in Lisbon also focused on the problem of overfishing, a week after the first steps taken last week by the World Trade Organization towards a partial ban on subsidies paid to the sector.
And, while the oceans will contain as much plastic as there are fish by 2050 if current trends are not reversed, this type of pollution has been another central topic.
The subject of deep seabed mining was also put on the table, in particular by the voices of small Pacific island States and parliamentarians from some thirty countries who called for a moratorium on this activity.
Despite the “state of emergency for the oceans” declared earlier this week by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, all these issues are likely to remain on the agenda at the next such conference, whether the French President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants to organize in 2025, with Costa Rica.