Funds Support Compliance with International Treaty To Save the Oceans and Biodiversity, Combat Climate Threats
(Beyond Pesticides, July 18, 2023) The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council, the governing body for the world’s largest source of multilateral funding for biodiversity loss and climate change, has authorized $34 million USD to support the new high seas treaty agreement announced on March 4. The move marks a significant step toward safeguarding the delicate ecosystems of the world’s oceans and promoting sustainable practices on a global scale. The oceans suffer from severe pollution caused by various substances, including pesticides, agricultural runoff, industrial and petrochemical waste, and synthetic chemicals found in plastics. These pollutants pose a significant threat to human health. The ecological consequences of ocean pollution have long been highlighted by Beyond Pesticides.
The March draft agreement was approved by 193 countries under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). Then in June, the BBNJ agreement was adopted by consensus at the United Nations meeting in New York. The agreement will be open for countries to sign on September 20, 2023, after the Sustainable Development Goal Summit. In order for the treaty to be entered into force, sixty countries must ratify the BBNJ. In the United States, President Biden can ratify the treaty if two-thirds of the U.S. Senate approves a resolution of ratification.
The BBNJ is a legally binding agreement that establishes a framework for managing activities such as fishing, shipping, resource extraction, and pollution in the high seas. Critics of the agreement are concerned that the U.S. will not ratify the new high seas treaty because it was developed under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which was not ratified by the U.S.
The $34 million allocation by the GEF Council will provide financial support to countries and organizations working toward the effective implementation of the BBNJ treaty. These funds will be utilized for capacity-building efforts, technical assistance, and the development of innovative tools and approaches to monitor and conserve marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The funds will be used to support various initiatives, including the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) in high seas regions, the development of scientific research programs to enhance our understanding of marine biodiversity, and the creation of partnerships and networks to facilitate international cooperation on sustainable ocean management. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, the treaty includes the following principles:
- The Precautionary Principle
- Polluter pays
- The common heritage of humankind
- Equity, including the fair and equitable sharing of benefits integrated, ecosystemic approaches
- Recognition of the special circumstances of small island developing states and least-developed countries
GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel RodrĂguez said, â€śThe Global Environment Facility is honored to serve this important new convention. We are ready to continue and intensify support for biodiversity protection and ocean health on the high seas.â€ť According to its website, GEF is governed by a body of 32 (14 for developed countries, 16 for developing countries, and 2 for economies in transition) appointed by the 185 member countries, and funding is made available to developing countries that are seeking to comply with international environmental agreements. The website notes, â€śFinancial contributions by donor countries are provided via several trust funds administered by the World Bank acting as theÂ GEF TrusteeÂ and serviced by a functionally independent Secretariat housed at the World Bank.â€ť
The GEF Council’s decision has been met with widespread acclaim from environmental organizations, scientific communities, and governments worldwide. Cassandra Worthington, community and policy manager at Beyond Pesticides, said, â€śThe allocation of funds from the GEF not only signifies a financial commitment but also sends a strong message of collective responsibility towards the protection and conservation of marine biodiversity beyond national boundaries.â€ť
Though many climate activists have historically focused on the carbon in the atmosphere, there is a growing concern about the accumulation in the Earthâ€™s oceans. Oceans play a vital role in regulating the Earth’s climate, holding 50% more carbon than the atmosphere. In the face of catastrophic climate change, prioritizing the health of Earthâ€™s oceans can help stabilize global temperatures and weather patterns.
Moreover, protecting the health of the oceans ensures the preservation of diverse ecosystems and safeguards countless species from extinction. The same chemicals responsible for the decline of insects on land also contribute to the loss of vital aquatic and marine organisms, disrupting entire ecosystems. Healthy marine ecosystems contribute to the overall biodiversity of the planet. Beyond Pesticides reported neonicotinoid insecticides, detected in rivers, streams, and lakes across 29 states, which have detrimental effects on crucial aquatic organisms and ecosystems.
With the climate crisis upon us, international collaboration to take action is critical to a sustainable future. Healthy oceans are a critical element of any plan to mitigate the threats of the climate crisis. Beyond Pesticides is urging people and organizations to: Tell President Biden to sign the UN high seas treaty. Tell EPA and Congress to protect the ocean from toxic pollution. In your community, advocate for Parks for a Sustainable Future and work with Beyond Pesticides to put organic land management practices in place.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: GEF press release