It’s high time for the high seas – Climate Weekly

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Talks on a global governance system for the high seas to better protect marine biodiversity have made little progress in recent months. (Photo: Christopher Michel/Flickr)


After almost 20 years of talks, the gavel fell on a new international treaty to protect the world’s oceans that lie outside national jurisdictions. 

Countries agreed on a legal framework for governing those remote parts of the oceans, where, far from sight, human activities have often gone unchecked.

Once formally adopted, the treaty will form the basis for the creation of marine protected areas and help reach a goal to protect 30% of the seas by 2030.

That’s all good news albeit the fact environmentally risky deep sea mining, which is governed by its own UN body, will be exempt from the treaty’s environmental assessment framework, Matteo Civillini reports.

The lesser known International Seabed Authority is currently negotiating a mining code that will lay the rules for extracting minerals used in EV batteries from the international seabed.

Campaigners are concerned that environmental safeguards for deep sea mining will be weaker than those of the high seas treaty, turning the exemption into a “get out of jail free card”.

Others remain optimistic the treaty will stitch the patchwork of ocean governance and avoid a two-tier standard: one for the oceans and another for their seabeds.

This week’s stories

In Mozambique, farmers and fishermen along the lower Zambezi river are concerned international human rights standards may be flouted in the construction of a 1.5GW mega dam.

With backing from the World Bank, the government says the project will help address energy poverty and accelerate a shift to cleaner energy sources.

NGOs estimate the project could displace thousands of families but local people told Climate Home they haven’t been formally informed – let alone consulted – about the plans.

And in China, one of the country’s top courts issued new guidelines encouraging judges around the country to hear climate-related cases that can help implement China’s carbon peaking and neutrality goals.

The unusual legal intervention urges courts to balance the need for development with corporate action when ruling on lawsuits. The move is likely to increase scrutiny on new high-emission projects.

Read more on: Lawsuits | UN climate talks