S1E95: Hope for the conservation and sustainable use of the high seas?

  • 20 Mar 2023

Why a new UN treaty gives hope to the world’s ailing oceans and is important to South-east Asia.

Synopsis: Every first and third Monday of the month, The Straits Times analyses the beat of the changing environment, from biodiversity conservation to climate change.

Did you know oceans provide about half the oxygen we breathe and soak up about 90 per cent of the excess heat generated by global warming? They also soak up about a third of the carbon dioxide emissions from mankind’s activities.

While this is slowing the pace of climate change, the oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic. And that’s threatening coral reefs and key food chains. 

Yet, there’s good news. Earlier this month, more than 190 nations agreed to the text of a new United Nations treaty to conserve and sustainably use the high seas. It’s the first treaty to focus on better protection for an area covering more than 60 per cent of the world’s oceans – the vast expanse outside national boundaries. 

The Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty (BBNJ) is nearly two decades in the making. It builds on another recent UN biodiversity agreement sealed in December 2022 at the UN’s COP15 biodiversity conference in Montreal. Nearly 200 nations agreed at COP15 to conserve and protect 30 percent of the world’s land, coastal and marine areas by 2030. This treaty will be key to meeting the 30 per cent target. 

To find out more about the BBNJ treaty, we speak to Dr Edward Game, lead scientist & director of conservation, Asia Pacific, for The Nature Conservancy. 

Highlights of conversation (click/tap above):

1:24 What is the new treaty and how will it reduce the risks facing oceans?

5:50 Oceans hold the greatest amount of biodiversity on the planet

9:19 Why is the treaty so important to South-east Asia?

10:39 How can the treaty tackle fishing, pollution and other threats?

14:00 Seabed mining could pose major risks to the deep ocean

Produced by: David Fogarty (dfogarty@sph.com.sg), Ernest Luis, Hadyu Rahim & Fa'izah Sani

Edited by: Hadyu Rahim

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