Stakeholders from the Economic Community of West African States on Monday pledged to prioritise ratifying and implementing the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty.
The stakeholders pledged at the ECOWAS coordination meeting on the ratification of the BBNJ treaty organised by the Federal Government in partnership with the government of Sierra Leone and the ECOWAS Directorate of Environment and Natural Resources.
The BBNJ treaty is a legally binding instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
The PUNCH reports that the treaty is key to protecting the ocean, promoting equity and fairness, tackling environmental degradation, fighting climate change, and preventing biodiversity loss in the high seas. The treaty will enter into force when 60 parties ratify it.
Speaking, the Minister of State for Environment, Dr. Iziaq Salako, said the world’s ocean is under threat, and there is a need to address it.
Salako stated, “The oceans are under threat more than ever before with sea level rise, temperature increases, acidification, pollution, biodiversity loss, unsustainable exploitation of marine resources, depletion of fish stocks, the near disappearance of coral reefs, and the destruction of fragile ecosystems.
“The urgent need to address this threat has led Nigeria and its sister ECOWAS member nations to unite and call on the international community to be more ambitious in its response. Our appeal for an ambitious global response to the biodiversity crisis is urgent and focused.
“Through the urgent appeal, we had identified several measures as essential, including the global designation of 30 per cent of land and oceans areas as protected by 2030, the conclusion of a robust new high-seas treaty, the establishment of highly and fully protected areas covering 30 per cent of the global ocean which prohibit environmentally damaging activities, and a global commitment towards immediately halting human-induced extinction of wild species, among others.”
According to him, only seven per cent of the world’s oceans are protected, and there are no comprehensive legal mechanisms in place to protect the high seas and the deep seabed areas, the shared international areas of oceans that lie beyond national jurisdictions, and that include almost 70 per cent of the global ocean.
Salako stated that oceans require strong protection that can only be achieved through a new treaty for the conservation and management of marine life in the high seas.
“This treaty must ensure that human activities are managed to prevent significant adverse impacts, with vigorous oversight mechanisms and provisions to establish fully and highly protected Marine Protected Areas in the high seas.
“Prompt ratification of the high-seas treaty and effective engagement in its implementation is an urgent priority for the preservation of our oceans,” he declared.
On his part, the Director of the Environment Department, ECOWAS, Moussa Leko, stated that the ambition of ECOWAS countries has been instrumental in securing positive outcomes from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the Convention on Biological Diversity meetings.
Leko said, “The task upon us today is to ensure that the vital ECOWAS appeal to the global community, calling for an ambitious global response to the biodiversity crisis continues to be heard loud and clear.
“This appeal represents a fundamental truth, which is that we must take robust action now, to protect our planet. We must urgently protect biodiversity to preserve ecosystem services vital to human well-being, and the livelihood of our local communities. Losing these services or standing idle while our communities go impoverished and hungry would result in an unimaginable future. It cannot be considered an option.
“We are ready to strengthen and expand our protected areas, we are ready to protect and recover our wild species. We are ready to act to protect our biodiversity, our ecosystem services, our magical and unique environments.”