Addressing the rising stressors to ocean health requires more holistic governance, according to a policy brief in the ‘Still Only One Earth’ series from IISD. Author Asterios Tsioumanis writes that a future treaty for the high seas may help cover existing policy gaps and play a coordinating role in ocean governance.
The brief, titled ‘The Rising Pressures on Ocean Governance,’ reviews how the ocean agenda has gained traction in the UN system, and the evolution in ocean governance from the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm to SDG 14 (life below water) contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Tsioumanis considers the “most interesting” policy development in this regard to be the convening of an intergovernmental conference to create an international legally binding instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ). Three meetings to negotiate an agreement convened in 2018 and 2019; the fourth meeting is expected to take place in 2022. The policy brief points to several remaining questions under these negotiations, related to: the relationship of the future instrument with other existing bodies; whether the agreement will cover fishing activities; whether the agreement will reflect the principle of the common heritage of humankind; and if so, how a benefit-sharing regime would look.
Tsioumanis concludes that despite the evolution in ocean governance from Stockholm to SDG 14, the stakes remain “as high as they can be: ocean health is intimately tied to our survival.”
The ‘Still Only One Earth’ policy briefs are being published in the lead-up to Stockholm+50. Other briefs in the series focus on biodiversity, wildlife trade, sustainable energy, finance and technology, climate change, plastic pollution, poverty eradication, measurement approaches, private sector action, public health, blue economy, gender equality, extended producer responsibility, regional governance of seas, biosafety, transport, and coral reefs, among other issues. [Publication: The Rising Pressures on Ocean Governance] [Still Only One Earth policy brief series]