UN talks urge faster steps to secure ‘critical’ ocean health

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — A United Nations conference warned Friday that measures needed to protect the world’s oceans are running late and urged countries to accelerate their implementation.

More than 6,000 senior officials, scientists and activists from more than 120 countries attended a five-day U.N. Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

A declaration published on the final day said delegates were “deeply alarmed by the global emergency facing the ocean,” whose sustainability is “critical” for the planet.

The declaration said that “action is not advancing at the speed or scale required to meet our goals.”

“Greater ambition is required at all levels to address the dire state of the ocean,” it concluded.

The oceans face threats including global warming, pollution and acidification.

A key step is a new international agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction, also known as the Treaty of the High Seas.

That treaty aims to establish a comprehensive legal framework for the high seas, which cover some 70% of the earth’s surface and provide food and livelihoods for billions of people.

After 10 years of talks, however, negotiating countries still haven’t clinched a deal, frustrating activists. A fifth round of talks is scheduled for August in New York.

Greenpeace said words were not enough.

Laura Meller from the environmental group’s Protect the Oceans campaign, said that “if declarations could save the oceans they wouldn’t be on the brink of collapse.”

The crunch will come at next month’s talks, when governments aim to finalize the global ocean treaty that, at a minimum, seeks to ensure the protection of 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.

“Anything less than that is just not enough,” Meller said.

French President Emmanuel Macron and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attended part of the conference.

Guterres blamed the “egoism” of some countries for the failure to strike a global oceans agreement so far.

Remi Parmentier, director of the Varda Group ocean think tank, told the Associated Press that the Lisbon conference would be remembered “as the moment the tide turned against deep sea mining.”

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