Day two of the negotiating sessions for this once in a decade meeting on sustainable development, and we seem to be drifting even further away from in the future we want here at Rio+20. Progress to agree final outcomes continues to be painfully slow, despite the fact that it is less than a week before ministers and Heads of State descend upon Rio to sign the final agreement. At this pace, the Heads of State are going to have much more work than they bargained for.
At this very moment, governments are negotiating text that will hopefully deliver an oceans rescue plan. A key component of this rescue plan- a new UN agreement to protect the high seas with more marine reserves - is on the table for discussion here at Rio. The high seas represent two thirds of our oceans, and with less than 1% of these areas currently protected, they are the least protected part of the planet.
Today, Greenpeace presented its oceans rescue plan to a packed room of people at the Rio Earth Summit, highlighting the black holes in oceans management and the clear need for action here and now in Rio. Rising temperatures are melting the fragile Arctic ice wilderness, opening up once inaccessible areas to fishing and energy exploitation. The high seas areas of the Arctic are without any rules or regulations, and currently there is no way to establish marine reserves there or in any of the high seas.
This week, the EU confirmed that getting the oceans rescue plan is one of their highest priorities for the conference. The chief Brazilian negotiator said today that they were confident that it would be an outcome of the Summit. The US is continuing to lead the charge in blocking consensus, arguing we don’t need more rules, we just need to implement them better. This excuse thinly disguises governments’ getting a quick buck at the expense of healthy and productive oceans for the long-term. The problematic role of the US government within the Rio negotiations even won them the infamous award for “fossil of the day” here at Rio. If we want to have a future we want, the US needs to stand aside and give the world a “Yes We Can” for our oceans.
Nathalie Rey is a senior political advisor with Greenpeace International, based in Amsterdam