High seas: MEPs are mobilizing for an agreement “as ambitious as possible”

An agreement for the high seas “As ambitious as possible” : this is what the 200 or so deputies who ask the French government to use all of its political weight to achieve it. A resolution to this effect must be voted on in the National Assembly on Thursday, November 25. If its adoption is not in doubt, the remaining question concerns the number of voters present to support it. The proposal is carried by the deputy Jimmy Pahun (MoDem, Morbihan), with Maina Sage (French Polynesia) and Olivier Becht (Haut-Rhin) of the Agir ensemble group, of the presidential majority.

Their initiative is part of a diplomatic process that remains poorly known, although it concerns 45% of the planet’s surface. Since 2017, the States have been negotiating under the aegis of the United Nations Organization a future treaty on the high seas (“Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction”, BBNJ) – after preparatory discussions which began in… 2006.

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This international legal instrument must provide a binding framework for new maritime activities that could develop in the ocean, beyond coastal waters. It aims, in other words, “The conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas outside national jurisdiction” respective of each state. Even if large chapters that annoy do not appear there, in particular fishing or the exploitation of the deep seabed, the negotiations are laborious. They were supposed to end in 2020, before the Covid-19 shakes up the schedule.

France’s “special responsibility”

In the National Assembly, the supporters of a consistent agreement would like to see the political power take over and boost this process, certainly legal, but which will help “Greatly to the preservation and enhancement of ecosystem services provided by the ocean (climate regulation, food, materials, leisure, etc.) in a perspective of sustainable development”, says the motion for a resolution. At the head of the State, Emmanuel Macron announced, for his part, the organization of a “One Ocean Summit”, in February 2022, in Brest. The idea is in particular to federate on this occasion the international actors involved in the protection of the high seas. France will then exercise the presidency of the European Union.

In fact, it is moreover the latter and not Paris which takes part in the first line of the discussions in New York. No matter: France’s exclusive economic zone – along with overseas territories, it has the second largest zone in the world – gives it “A special responsibility” and must engage it, still according to the text of the resolution, “At the forefront of the fight against climate change” and its corollary, the safeguard of marine ecosystems. His voice must carry.

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High seas: MEPs are mobilizing for an agreement “as ambitious as possible”