This week I’ve written to Boris Johnson, calling on the Government to show leadership to secure an ambitious and effective Global Ocean Treaty that will truly protect the biodiversity of ocean and marine areas for decades to come.
The final round of United Nations negotiations will take place next month to agree the Treaty, but I’m concerned that without a major breakthrough, it won’t be possible to get an ambitious deal. So, I’ve asked the Prime Minister to make the negotiations a Government priority, and to demonstrate this by sending a senior minister to the final meeting in March, with a mandate to negotiate a bold deal as a top priority.
Here’s my letter which you might be interested to read:
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
Prime Minister’s Office
10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister,
Thank you for your leadership in supporting scientists’ ambitious call to protect at least 30% of the global oceans by 2030. It is encouraging to see the United Kingdom winning commitments from Governments around the world to this target, through the Global Ocean Alliance. There’s still more we must do to build on these pledges and achieve this necessary goal, while climate change, plastic pollution and overfishing are causing immense harm to our oceans and their wildlife.
I am writing to you about the greatest opportunity of our lifetime to protect the global oceans: a new Global Ocean Treaty (BBNJ) under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Treaty is set to be agreed at the next and final round of negotiations in March 2020 (IGC4). A strong treaty will have powers to deliver real protection to our global oceans, via a network of marine protected areas (also known as ocean sanctuaries), paving the way to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.
The latest version of the Global Ocean Treaty text was published in late November 2019. Greenpeace’s initial assessment of the draft, with respect to marine protected areas, is that, while the text does contain the means to deliver the network of protection needed, much of the strongest language remains up for negotiation. Weak alternative options are also presented in the draft that would not improve, but simply reinforce the status quo of fragmented ocean governance that is pushing our oceans to the brink of collapse.
The negotiations haven’t yet progressed far enough, and without a major breakthrough, it won’t be possible to get an ambitious deal. More ambition and leadership is urgently needed in order to guarantee the strongest language and secure a Treaty that delivers effective environmental protection, putting nature first.
With a proud history of forging landmark agreements to protect our environment for future generations, the UK Government has a vital role to play in helping to deliver a robust agreement. The timeline set by the UN General Assembly is short, so this will require strong leadership and increased engagement, in particular from the Foreign Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as well as diplomatic outreach at the highest political level.
As a first step in making these negotiations a Government priority, please will you commit to sending a senior minister to the final meeting in March, with a mandate to negotiate a bold deal as a top priority, and encourage your counterparts in other countries to do the same. The Leader of the House of Commons recently told Parliament that he is confident that senior members of Government would be interested in being involved with treaty discussions, given the UK’s track record in marine protection. I hope this means that a senior minister can represent our ambitions at the UN.
An ambitious rescue plan for marine life can only be achieved via a strong Global Ocean Treaty, with powers to establish fully protected sanctuaries in areas beyond national jurisdiction, and powers to decide about concrete conservation measures to effectively protect valuable marine areas from harmful human activities. UK leadership at this stage is crucial, and we can’t afford to miss this chance.
I look forward to hearing from you, and am happy to discuss this with you if you are able to suggest a suitable time. Thank you.
Peter Kyle MP