Fishes in the ocean

Highlights and images for 7 March 2024

Brussels, Belgium

Musical Intermezzo

Blue Leaders’ band performing a song dedicated to the Ocean

The adoption of the treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ Treaty) in June 2023 is widely viewed as a significant achievement for multilateralism. Representatives from governments, intergovernmental organizations, science, and civil society came together for the Blue Leaders High-Level Event in Brussels, Belgium, to celebrate this milestone and mobilize support for a swift entry into force of the Treaty.

Paul Van Tigchelt, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice and the North Sea, Belgium, announced that Belgium passed the first step in its federal ratification process. Prince Albert II of Monaco shared that Monaco aims to complete its ratification process by the end of 2024.

Alexander de Croo, Prime Minister, Belgium, and His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco

Alexander de Croo, Prime Minister, Belgium, and His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco

Richard Benyon, Minister of State for Climate, Environment, and Energy, UK, noted the UK is reviewing what legislative changes are needed to comply with the BBNJ Treaty at the national level, offering to support developing countries in conducting similar assessments.

Sebastian Unger, Special Representative for the Ocean, Germany, announced an upcoming call for projects under Germany’s International Climate Initiative to support countries in the Global South in identifying marine protected areas (MPAs), noting this will contribute to kick-starting implementation of the Treaty.

All speakers agreed on the aim to use the third UN Ocean Conference in June 2025 in Nice, France, as a platform to mark the entry into force of the BBNJ Treaty. For this, 60 countries will need to have ratified the agreement by February 2025. Thus far, Palau and Chile are the only two countries that have, thus far, ratified the agreement, in the “race to ratification.”

Coral artwork

Coral work of art, by artist Bogenna Ivana Niekoop and Nina Maat, Founder, Muses United for Circular Economy, inspired by the white-colored cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa.

Key take-aways from the event included that:

  • the BBNJ Treaty, through the designation of MPAs, is key to reaching the objectives of the Global Biodiversity Framework, especially the target to protect 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine areas by 2030;
  • there is a range of ocean-climate interlinkages, with several speakers highlighting the role of kelp forests as habitat for endangered species and as carbon sinks;
  • the need for enhanced global cooperation to advance ocean science, with small island developing states emphasizing the importance of technology transfer and capacity building; and
  • the value of art as a vehicle to raise awareness and build support for ocean conservation.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo highlighted Belgium’s offer to host the BBNJ Secretariat in Brussels and underscored the aim to foster swift ratification of the treaty within the EU.

To receive free coverage of global environmental events delivered to your inbox, subscribe to the ENB Update newsletter.

All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For the Blue Leaders High-Level Event on BBNJ please use: Photo by IISD/ENB - Anastasia Rodopoulou