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Countries gather to discuss new U.N. ocean protection treaty

Delegations from hundreds of countries will meet in New York this week in an attempt to hammer out a new legally binding ocean protection treaty that green groups believe will decide whether efforts to safeguard global biodiversity can succeed.

Last August, an earlier round of talks on the new United Nations ocean conservation treaty were suspended, with countries unable to reach an agreement on financing. Sharing the proceeds of “marine genetic resources” and the establishment of ocean environmental impact assessment rules for development were also major sticking points.

Experts familiar with the negotiations said major parties have now moved closer together on key issues as new talks begin, though compromises were still being sought.

“There seems to be an appetite to actually finalize the treaty now,” said Jessica Battle, ocean expert at the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

The success of the talks, scheduled to run until March 3, still “hinge on the finance question”, said Li Shuo, global policy advisor at Greenpeace, and China is set to be a major player in the negotiations, especially when it comes to bringing other developing nations on board.

According to Greenpeace, 11 million square kilometers (4.25 million square miles) of ocean must be protected every year between now and the end of the decade if a target of protecting 30 percent of the world’s land and sea by 2030 – known as “30 by 30” – is to be met.

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