Leaders expected in Brest to better protect the ocean

Thirty heads of state and government, half of whom are present in Brest, in northwestern France, are expected to commit on Friday to better protect the ocean, essential for climate regulation and rich in biodiversity but damaged by human activities.

The day after his civil nuclear recovery plan, French President Emmanuel Macron will welcome his counterparts, representatives of the United Nations, the European Union and non-governmental organizations, the leaders of European maritime transport giants by containers, in presence on site or by video, during a sequence scheduled to last four hours.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, US climate envoy John Kerry, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose country will host COP27 on climate in November, and Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo of Sousa, who will host a UN summit on the oceans in Lisbon at the end of June, are expected in the French port city.

Other leaders will participate via video conference or video message, including UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the president of Côte d’Ivoire Alassane Ouattara.

This meeting is part of the “One ocean” summit organized from Wednesday to Friday in the Breton port, as part of the French presidency of the European Union.

It gives “the necessary impetus for the start of a decisive year 2022 to halt the degradation of our seas, all our seas, i.e. nearly three quarters of the surface of our globe”, indicates Emmanuel Macron in the presentation of the summit.

During the days of Wednesday and Thursday, devoted to workshops, “we saw practical solutions (…) But we have to go even further, faster because when we talk about global warming, in the Pacific, some islands already have the feet in the water”, alerted from Brest Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu, Minister of the Environment of French Polynesia, to AFP.

– NGO demonstration –

Several international events are to be held between now and the end of the year, which could strengthen the protection of the oceans: a UN meeting on the environment at the end of February which will discuss the question of an international agreement on plastic, negotiations in March at the UN on a treaty for the high seas, biodiversity and climate COPs and the Lisbon conference.

France hopes that this summit will lead to a strong political impetus around several subjects: the launch of negotiations to reach an international treaty to combat plastic pollution, the development of marine protected areas, the outcome of discussions on a treaty international law on the high seas or the ratification of a treaty to improve the safety of fishing vessels.

“The withdrawals made by humans must be renewable” concerning fishing, we must ensure “the preservation of the role of the ocean in the regulation of the climate” and “the exploration of the mineral resources of the ocean (.. .) must not disturb biodiversity”, underlines the French oceanographer Paul Tréguer.

For Peter Thomson, special envoy for the ocean of the United Nations, present in Brest, it is time to “open the tap of finance to invest in a sustainable + blue economy”.

NGOs, Greenpeace and Pleine Mer, who consider France, the world’s second maritime power, not very exemplary in terms of protecting the oceans, will demonstrate Friday morning in Brest to denounce a “blue washing” operation.

France Nature Environnement (FNE) is worried about France’s desire to explore the deep seabed rich in minerals, with the fear that this will lead to industrial exploitation. The association is concerned about a marine area protection policy that is not ambitious enough.

With the “Seas at risk” coalition, she also submitted a petition on Thursday to denounce the “massacre of common dolphins” off the French coast, caught in fishing gear.

© 2022 AFP

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