Oceans need responsible governance to battle climate crisis

Indian Climate Dialog

Popular images of climate change are often restricted to melting polar ice caps or desertification. However, there is another ecosystem in crisis — the oceans — and the prognosis is not promising.

There is now widespread recognition of the increasing urgency for better governance of the oceans. This is particularly true of those parts of the ocean which extend beyond a country’s jurisdiction, known as Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), or more commonly, the high seas.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS) is the overarching law for regulating the seas. It does not, however, apply to the high seas. After decades of civil society mobilisation, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2017 established an intergovernmental conference to develop a legally binding text under the UNCLOS.

The mandate of the treaty was the conservation and sustainable use of marine diversity in the high seas through a package of four issues — marine genetic resources, marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments, and capacity building including transfer of marine technology.

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