Protecting the world’s oceans – an important success of Germany’s climate diplomacy

Trash on a beach in Thailand

Trash on a beach in Thailand, © Zoonar.com/Fokke Baarssen

20.03.2023 - Article

Effective provisions for protecting the high seas and therefore two-thirds of the oceans have been lacking to date. However, the UN member states have reached consensus on an agreement to improve the protection of the world’s oceans.

The world’s oceans are vital to our survival. They regulate the global climate and are a source of food and income for billions of people. Nevertheless, it took almost 20 years for the global community to reach agreement on an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction in early March following intensive discussions and complex negotiations. This agreement is urgently needed as our oceans are under threat – from overfishing, marine pollution and the climate crisis. Two-thirds of the oceans lie outside state sovereign territory, and special protection measures apply to only a tiny fraction of them.

The outcome: A binding marine conservation agreement

Germany and the EU have been working for years in the United Nations to ensure the special protection and sustainable use of biological diversity of the seas and the deep ocean floor. As soon as the marine conservation agreement enters into force, area-based protective measures including marine protected areas can be established worldwide (by majority vote for the first time). This presents a great opportunity to protect 30 percent of the oceans by 2030 – one of the central goals of the Kunming-Montreal Global Diversity Framework. Furthermore, mandatory environmental impact assessments will be introduced for all human activities that have a significant impact on the marine environment of the high seas. All countries should be enabled to participate in the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity through capacity-building and the provision of technologies. There will be fair rules for compensation payments to developing countries for the use of marine genetic resources of the high seas and the deep ocean floor. In addition, international cooperation and capacities for research into the still largely unknown biodiversity of the high seas and the deep ocean floor are to be strengthened.

What happens next?

Our diplomats have successfully campaigned for an ambitious, global, effective, balanced marine conservation agreement that is fit for the future. Progress must now be made on implementing the treaty. After formal adoption of the agreement at another intergovernmental conference, it will be opened for signature. After ratification by at least 60 states, it will enter into force 120 days later.
Further information is available on the website of the United Nations.​​​​​​​


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