All life on Earth depends on the oceans. We must ensure they are protected for generations to come yet the threats they face are increasing every day. Heeding the calls of 5.5 million people from across the world, countries put aside their differences and a Global Ocean Treaty was adopted by leaders earlier this year, in a triumph for multilateralism, people and nature.

The Treaty opened for signatures Wednesday, 20 September, to great celebration in New York City, at the UN General Assembly. I was in New York City to witness the signing, and to meet and exchange with allies about how to further protect our oceans. 

At the end of the first day, 67 countries had signed, a number that will continue to grow. Throughout the day, I met with several leaders and said the same thing to each of them: Prove it, ratify this treaty at home. 

The Treaty is a powerful tool, which could be used to create vast ocean sanctuaries where marine life can recover and thrive. These ocean sanctuaries are a critical tool in the fight against the climate and nature emergencies, and they will provide resilience for ecosystems in the face of rapid warming. However, it will only enter into force once at least 60 governments have ratified it. Without this tool, it will be impossible to deliver the global commitment to protect at least 30% of the earth’s land and sea by 2030. 

By signing the Treaty, world leaders showed their support in the fight to protect the global oceans, and their intention to continue engaging in this vital process. This is a moment to celebrate: six months on from the Treaty first being agreed, and three months on from its adoption by consensus, this spirit of global collaboration to protect nature is strong. 

This year’s victory is a good start on the long road to real ocean protection. After this symbolic moment, leaders must now bring the Treaty into national law at home.

The clock is ticking to 2030 – the UN’s own deadline for protecting 30% of the oceans. The Treaty is the tool that can deliver this protection, but only if it is ratified in time to enter into force at the UN Ocean Conference in 2025.

I was glad to be at the UN for these first signatures; I’ll be even happier to congratulate the 60th state that ratifies the Treaty!