EU, UN Host Summit on Cleaning, Protecting the World’s Oceans

World leaders met Friday in the French northwest coastal city of Brest for a three-day summit aimed at taking action to clean and protect the earth’s oceans.

The One Ocean Summit is being hosted by France, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union Council, along with the United Nations. The goal of the meetings is to raise awareness on issues such as pollution and over-fishing and get international commitments to address and reverse the situation.

French President Emmanuel Macron opened the summit with a call for such commitments “and useful actions, in hopes of setting “an international agenda for 2022.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke soon after, citing threats to the ocean and called for the adoption of an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean’s biodiversity. She said she was confident it could be adopted this year.

Von der Leyen cited a treaty signed in 2016 by the U.S., China, Russia, the EU and others, to protect the Ross Sea in Antarctica. She said, “They overcame their differences to protect this rich ecosystem. We can do it again.”

The treaty is being driven by the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, ((HAC)) an intergovernmental group of at least 70 countries co-chaired by Costa Rica and France and by the United Kingdom, aiming to get at least 30 percent of the world’s land and oceans protected by 2030.

U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry spoke at the summit and called out illegal fishing operations that use drag nets that destroy habitat and deplete the world’s fish stocks. Kerry said illegal activity accounts for one-fifth of all the world’s fishing.

On the sidelines of the summit, the United States and France issued a joint statement to announce they are launching negotiations on a global agreement to reduce plastic waste in the world’s oceans. They expect the negotiations to begin at the 5th U.N. Environment Assembly (UNEA) to be held in Nairobi later this month.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.