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EU hails global marine biodiversity agreement

Deal reached after almost 20 years aims to protect oceans lying beyond national jurisdiction

EU politicians have praised the conclusion of a new international agreement to protect marine biodiversity.

The Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty, also known as the High Seas treaty, was agreed on 5 March, having been under discussion via a UN-facilitated process since 2004.

It is intended to place 30 per cent of the world’s oceans into conservation areas and establishes rules for limiting the environmental impacts of human marine activities in the 95 per cent of world oceans that are beyond national jurisdiction.

The January-June Swedish presidency of the Council of EU member state governments said it had been leading discussions for the bloc in recent weeks.

“This is the most important international environmental deal since the Paris [Climate] Agreement,” said Sweden’s minister for foreign affairs, Tobias Billström. He added that the agreement “provides a significantly improved opportunity to protect biodiversity and combat climate change”.

The EU commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said the deal was a “proof of strengthened multilateral cooperation with our partners”.

The agreement will enter into force once 60 states have ratified it, and the European Commission said the EU will work to ensure this happens rapidly.

Days earlier, the EU announced what it said were “new commitments” to ocean sustainability, including about €320 million for research to protect marine biodiversity.