1.7 Million Locked down in China’s Anhui province

China placed 1.7 million people under lockdown in central Anhui province, where authorities reported nearly 300 new cases Monday in the latest of a string of outbreaks testing Beijing’s no-tolerance approach to COVID-19.

The country is the last major economy wedded to a zero-COVID strategy, responding to all cases with strict isolation orders and tough testing campaigns.

The outbreak in Anhui — where officials first found hundreds of cases last week — comes as the Chinese economy begins to rebound from a months-long lockdown in Shanghai and disruptive COVID restrictions in the capital Beijing.

Two counties in the province — Sixian and Lingbi — announced lockdowns last week, with more than 1.7 million residents only permitted to leave their homes if they are getting tested.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed empty streets in Sixian over the weekend and people lining up for their sixth round of mass testing in recent days.

The province reported 287 new infections on Monday, including 258 people who had no symptoms, according to China’s National Health Commission, bringing the total cases found to just over 1,000.

Provincial governor Wang Qingxian urged local authorities to “seize every minute and earnestly implement quick screening” as well as rapid quarantine and reporting of cases, in a statement published by the Anhui government on Monday.

Neighboring Jiangsu province also reported 56 new local infections across four cities on Monday.

Photos shared widely online, verified by AFP Fact Check, showed hundreds of people in hazmat suits lining up in the city of Wuxi in Jiangsu, appearing to be waiting for buses to quarantine facilities.

Some of the shots showed babies in blue protective clothing carried by people with suitcases waiting outside a hospital in sweltering heat.

Temperatures in Wuxi have recently reached up to 36° C (97° F).

While cases remain low relative to China’s vast population, officials insist the zero-COVID policy is necessary to prevent a healthcare calamity, pointing to unevenly distributed medical resources and low vaccination rates among the elderly. 

But the strategy has hammered the world’s second-largest economy and heavy-handed enforcement has triggered rare protests in the tightly controlled country.

China’s international isolation has also prompted some foreign businesses and families with the financial means to make exit plans.

National authorities announced a reduced quarantine requirement for international arrivals last month, rallying most Asian markets as investors hoped the move could provide a boost for Beijing’s COVID-slumped economy.

But health official Lei Zhenglong has insisted the new quarantine policy was “absolutely not a loosening of (COVID) prevention and control.”

Visionary British Theater Director Peter Brook Dies Aged 97

Peter Brook, one of the world’s most innovative theater directors who perfected the art of staging powerful drama in bizarre venues, has died aged 97, his publisher said Sunday.

The British director used the world as his stage mounting productions ranging from challenging versions of Shakespeare through international opera to Hindu epic poems.

Brook put on plays in gymnasiums, deserted factories, quarries, schools and old gas works in towns around the world.

His 1970 Stratford production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” played all in white and with a huge, garlanded swing, secured his place in the annals of theater history.

According to Le Monde, Brook – who had been based in France since 1974 – died in Paris Saturday.

A statement from his publisher confirmed his death Sunday.

Although Brook was regarded with awe in theatrical circles, he was less well known among the wider public because of his refusal to bow to commercial taste. He left Britain to work in Paris in 1970.

He often shunned traditional theatrical buildings for the “empty space” which could be transformed by light, words, improvisation and the sheer power of acting and suggestion.

“I can take any empty space and call it a stage,” he wrote in his ground-breaking 1968 book The Empty Space.

His quest for inspiration took him as far afield as Africa and Iran and produced a variety of original improvised plays marked by his eye for detail and challenging approach.

Born in London March 21, 1925, his father was a company director and his mother a scientist. He left school at 16 to work in a film studio and then went to Oxford University and took a degree in English and Foreign Languages.

In 1970 he transferred from Britain to work in Paris, founding the International Center of Theater Research which brought together actors and designers of many different nationalities.

Brook continued working into his 90s.

“Every form of theater has something in common with a visit to the doctor. On the way out, one should always feel better than on the way in,” he wrote in his 2017 book Tip of the Tongue.

У Туреччині затримали російське судно з українським зерном – посол України

Турецькі митні органи затримали російське вантажне судно із зерном, яке, за даними влади України, було вивезене із захопленого Росією порту Бердянська, повідомив у неділю посол України в Туреччині Василь Боднар.

«У нас (з Туреччиною – ред.) повна співпраця. Наразі судно стоїть біля входу до порту, воно затримане митними органами Туреччини», – заявив Боднар в ефірі телемарафону.

Боднар сказав, що доля корабля вирішуватиметься на засіданні слідчих у понеділок. Він висловив сподівання, що судно заарештують.

Турецька та російська влада публічно не коментувала заяву посла України.

Раніше Боднар повідомив, що до турецького порту Карасу увійшло судно Zhibek Zholy з окупованого Росією Бердянська, Україна попросила Туреччину «вжити невідкладних заходів».

30 червня голова призначеної Москвою окупаційної адміністрації у Запорізькій області Євген Балицький заявив, що торгове судно із сімома тисячами тонн зерна залишило окуповане Росією українське місто Бердянськ. Він заявив, що судно йде до «дружніх країн», не уточнивши, які саме країни вважаються «дружніми».

Україна та західні держави звинувачують Росію у крадіжці українського зерна та блокуванні українських портів, що загрожує продовольчим поставкам у світі.

На сьогодні 22 мільйони тонн українського зерна неможливо вивезти через блокування чорноморських портів Росією. 13 червня Україна поставила першу партію зерна у ЄС новим морським шляхом через Балтійське море.

Міжнародна спільнота закликає Росію розблокувати порти та дозволити експорт українського зерна. Зокрема ООН закликала Росію дозволити вивезти зерно з українських портів.

Москва заявляла, що готова наростити постачання продовольства, якщо з неї знімуть санкції, запроваджені через війну проти України.

Кількість поранених через агресію РФ дітей в Україні зросла до 642 – ОГП

«2 липня внаслідок обстрілу військовими РФ цивільної інфраструктури міста Добропілля Донецької області отримали поранення 7-річний хлопчик та 3-річна дівчинка»

Climate Change Means More Mice, Demand for Pest Control in US

At her home in Rockford, Illinois, Rita Davisson said the “one or two” mice she normally sees during the waning winter months “have turned into more like 10 or 15” in the last couple years, and scientists say the warmer weather might have something to do with it.

The 66-year-old said the influx prompted her to contract a pest control service for the first time in the more than 30 years she’s lived in her house.

“They’re sneaking around the basement, the garage, my backyard,” she said. “The one trap I have just hasn’t been enough lately.”

Researchers say warming temperatures and milder winters have increased the population of the white-footed mouse, the most abundant small rodent found throughout much of the eastern U.S. and Canada, making more work for pest control experts.

Above-average temperatures were recorded across most eastern and central U.S. states last winter. Since 1970, average winter temperatures have increased by at least one degree Fahrenheit (0.6 Celsius) in every state, with states in the Northeast and the Great Lakes region warming by more than 3 degrees F (1.7 C).

While the mouse population typically decreases during long winters, warmer winters fueled by climate change mean fewer mice die before spring, said Christian Floyd, a wildlife biologist at the University of Rhode Island.

“These small mammals spend their whole lives shivering. They lose heat so fast,” Floyd said. “When you get a milder winter, they’re going to survive better. The mice don’t have to shiver as much, and they’re also less likely to die from starvation because they have more ability to hunt for food.”

Susan Hoffman, associate professor of biology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, said the white-footed mice have migrated past a transitional forest region that has long served as a dividing line for many species, noting that they’ve expanded “surprisingly fast” in North America — about 125 miles in 30 years, 15 times farther than previously expected.

The white-footed mouse, which has historically proliferated from the Tennessee Valley through the northern Atlantic Coast, has already expanded its northern limit into Québec, Hoffman said. By 2050, the mice population is predicted to have migrated north in even greater numbers, especially as the warming climate pushes their preferred forest habitats farther north, too.

This migration also has been documented with other species, including chipmunks, flying squirrels and meadow-jumping mice, she said.

“Multiple lines of evidence indicate that warmer temperatures, and overall climate effects, are permitting (white-footed mice) to survive farther north,” Hoffman said, adding that humans are also likely responsible for unintentionally carrying some mice north in cars, boats and RVs.

Scientists say the rodents’ spread could mean more mice in and around homes. Michael Bentley, director of training and education for the National Pest Management Association, noted that the increased mice activity also requires pest management technicians to spend more time eliminating food sources and entry points in homes to control mice populations.

That’s already the case in Indiana, where Allie Dickman, a director at AAA Pest Control, said technicians saw an uptick in mice calls this winter. Calls for more mice services at rural and suburban homes, as well as in urban buildings, have continued into the spring.

“Right now, I would say 30% to 40% of our calls involve mice, which is pretty surprising given the time of year,” Dickman said. “They’re just adapting and expanding more … and there’s more of them.”

Experts also warn of even greater public health implications, given that white-footed mice are natural reservoirs for Lyme disease bacteria, which can then infect ticks that are capable of transmitting Lyme disease to people.

The bacterial illness that can cause fever, fatigue, joint pain, and skin rash, as well as more serious joint and nervous system complications, is the most common vector-borne disease in the U.S.

Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire have so far experienced the largest increases in reported cases, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has attributed, in part, to climate change.

Fifty-three-year-old Elliot Smythe, who owns a farm near Randolph, Vermont, said he’s paying more attention to the growing numbers of mice and ticks and the property after his 15-year-old son contracted Lyme disease last fall.

“Living in a more rural area like I do, I didn’t mind mice that much,” Smythe said. “But when they keep coming, and they turn into a nuisance … well now I have a problem.”

Over time, the northward shift of mice could mean that more southern regions of the U.S. will see fewer rodents, Floyd said, but areas in the Midwest, New England and Canada could see them in greater numbers.

“We’re going to need more research to understand better where and how fast (the mice) are moving,” he said. “We’ll also need to learn more about how wetter conditions from climate change could also play a role. There’s a lot more to learn.”

London Pride Parade Marks 50 Years, Looks Back on Progress

London Saturday celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first Pride parade, marking half a century of progress in the fight for equality and tolerance but with warnings that more still needs to be done. 

Several hundred people took part in the first march July 1, 1972, just five years after homosexuality was decriminalized in the U.K. 

Fifty years on, more than 600 LGBTQ+ groups danced, sang and rode floats along a similar route to the original protest, in the first Pride since the coronavirus pandemic, watched by huge cheering crowds. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan told reporters the event, which organizers said was the “biggest and most inclusive” in its history, was a celebration of community, unity and progress. 

But he said it was also a reminder of the need to “campaign and never be complacent” and the need for “an open, inclusive, accepting world.” 

“We saw this time last week an attack in Oslo just hours before that parade, where two people lost their lives and more than 20 were injured,” he said. 

“So, we’ve got to be conscious of the fact that there’s still a danger to this community of discrimination, bias and violence.” 

Khan’s predecessor as mayor, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said it gave him “the greatest pride to lead a country where you can love whomever you choose to love and where you can be free to be whoever you want to be.” 

The 50th anniversary was a “milestone,” he said, paying tribute to the bravery of those who did it first. 

Peter Tatchell, a veteran gay rights campaigner who took part in the 1972 march, said some from the original event have boycotted the modern-day sponsored version as “depoliticized and commercialized.” 


In 1972, “Gay Pride,” as it was then known, was a demand for visibility and equality against a backdrop of lingering prejudice, discrimination and fear among many gay men and women about coming out. 

In the 1980s, Pride became a focal point for campaigning against legislation by prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government against the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools. 

It also helped to raise awareness and support for people with HIV/Aids. 

Now, with the rainbow flag of inclusion and tolerance spread ever more widely over the spectrum of human sexuality and gender, Pride in London is more celebration than protest. 

Tatchell said that despite victories such as same-sex marriage, “we are still fighting to ban LGBT+ conversion practices which seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” 

“We’re still fighting to secure trans people’s right to change their legal documents with ease by a simple statutory declaration. And of course, we are standing in solidarity with a global LGBT+ movement,” he told AFP. 

Julian Hows, now 67, was at the first march. He said, “progress is always incremental,” criticizing curbs on LGBTQ+ rights around the world. 

“We have to be vigilant. The price of liberation and to keeping people’s human rights intact is vigilance,” he added. 



Padraigin Ni Raghillig, president of Dykes on Bikes London, a motorcycle club for gay women, said the event retained part of its original campaigning spirit. 

“It’s still important, I think, to at least once a year to be out and about, and to say, ‘we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going shopping,'” said Ni Raghillig, astride a Harley Davidson. 

Among those marching was a contingent from Ukraine, who criticized homophobia in Russia.  

This year’s Pride saw warnings for people with monkeypox symptoms to stay away, after public health officials said many cases in the U.K. were reported among gay and bisexual men. 

LGBTQ+ campaign group Stonewall said everyone had a part to play to stop the spread of monkeypox, which is passed through close contact regardless of sexual orientation.  

Rock Star Randy Bachman Reunited With Beloved Stolen Guitar

Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search came to an end Friday when he was reunited in Tokyo with a cherished guitar 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.

“My girlfriend is right there,” said Bachman, 78, a former member of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as the Gretsch guitar on which he wrote “American Woman” and other hits was handed to him by a Japanese musician who had bought it at a Tokyo store in 2014 without knowing its history.

He said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional. He worked at multiple jobs to save money to buy the $400 guitar, his first purchase of an expensive instrument, he said.

“It made my whole life. It was my hammer and a tool to write songs, make music and make money,” Bachman told The Associated Press before the handover at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.

When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said. “It was very, very upsetting.” He ended up buying about 300 guitars in unsuccessful attempts to replace it, he said.

Bachman talked frequently about the missing guitar in interviews and on radio shows, and more recently on YouTube programs on which he performed with his son, Tal.

In 2020, a Canadian fan who heard the story of the guitar launched an internet search and successfully located it in Tokyo within two weeks.

The fan, William Long, used a small spot in the guitar’s wood grain visible in old images as a “digital fingerprint” and tracked the instrument down to a vintage guitar shop site in Tokyo. A further search led him to a YouTube video showing the instrument being played by a Japanese musician, TAKESHI, in December 2019.

After receiving the news from Long, Bachman contacted TAKESHI immediately, and recognized the guitar in a video chat they had.

“I was crying,” Bachman said. “The guitar almost spoke to me over the video, like, ‘Hey, I’m coming home.’”

TAKESHI agreed to give it to Bachman in exchange for one that was very similar. So, Bachman searched and found the guitar’s “sister” — made during the same week, with a close serial number, no modifications and no repairs.

“To find my guitar again was a miracle, to find its twin sister was another miracle,” Bachman said.

TAKESHI said he decided to return the guitar because as a guitar player he could imagine how much Bachman missed it.

“I owned it and played it for only eight years and I’m extremely sad to return it now. But he has been feeling sad for 46 years, and it’s time for someone else to be sad,” TAKESHI said. “I felt sorry for this legend.”

He said he felt good after returning the guitar to its rightful owner, but it may take time for him to love his new Gretsch as much as that one.

“It’s a guitar, and it has a soul. So even if it has the same shape, I cannot say for sure if I can love a replacement the same way I loved this one,” he said. “There is no doubt Randy thought of me and searched hard (for the replacement), so I will gradually develop an affection for it, but it may take time.”

Bachman said he and TAKESHI are now like brothers who own guitars that are “twin sisters.” They are participating in a documentary about the guitar on which they plan to perform a song, “Lost and Found,” together.

They also performed several songs at Friday’s handover, including “American Woman.”

Bachman said he will lock the guitar up in his home so he will never lose it again. “I am never ever going to take it out of my house again,” he said.

Понад 10 тисяч маріупольців перебувають у «тюрмах» угруповання «ДНР» – міськрада

Міський голова Маріуполя Вадим Бойченко закликав Міжнародний комітет Червоного Хреста і ООН звернути увагу «на незаконне утримання цивільних жителів міста»

Через агресію Росії в Україні загинули 344 дитини – ОГП

«Ці цифри не остаточні, оскільки триває робота з їх встановлення в місцях ведення активних бойових дій, на тимчасово окупованих та звільнених територіях»

Сім’ям загиблих у ТЦ «Амстор» виплатять по 100 000 грн допомоги – влада

Кременчуцька міська рада ухвалила рішення про збільшення до 100 тисяч гривень матеріальної допомоги сім’ям постраждалих унаслідок російського ракетного удару по торговельному центру «Амстор», повідомив міський голова Віталій Малецький.

«Збільшуємо у два рази допомогу сім’ям загиблих в ТЦ «Амстор». Разом з депутатами міської ради ухвалили рішення про збільшення виплати від усієї Кременчуцької громади з 50 000 до 100 000 грн кожній родині загиблого у цій страшній трагедії», – йдеться у повідомленні.

Також Віталій Малецький повідомив про виділення коштів на оплату поховань усіх загиблих.

1 липня у Державній службі України з надзвичайних ситуацій повідомили, що станом на 20:00 у місті Кременчуку Полтавської області обстежили та розібрали уламки будівельних конструкцій на 90% загальної площі ТЦ «Амстор».

Загалом унаслідок ракетного удару, за офіційними даними, загинули 19 людей і постраждали 64 особи, з яких 26 шпиталізували. 

Крім того, за час робіт служби виявили на місці удару 29 фрагментів тіл.

Вдень 27 червня російські війська завдали ракетного удару по торговельно-розважальному центру в Кременчуку на Полтавщині. За даними ЗСУ, по Кременчуку російські війська випустили ракети Х-22 із дальніх бомбардувальників Ту-22 М3. Пуски здійснили над Курською областю Росії.

Раніше в Офісі генпрокурора повідомляли, що залишаються безвісти зниклими 36 людей.

Міноборони Росії визнало удар по Кременчуку, але, як завжди, заперечило, що цілило в цивільний об’єкт, заявивши, що ціллю атаки був військовий об’єкт: «ангари з озброєнням і боєприпасами, що надійшли від США і європейських країн в районі Кременчуцького заводу дорожніх машин». У Міноборони РФ заявили, що «детонація боєприпасів до західної зброї викликала пожежу в розташованому поряд з територією заводу торговому центрі, що не функціонував».

Тим часом Служба безпеки України заявила, що збирає численні докази того, що російські військові свідомо вчинили воєнний злочин, обстрілявши торговий центр у Кременчуку Полтавської області.


Canada Abortion Providers Prepare to Receive US Patients

Medical centers in Canada that perform abortions are preparing to receive patients from U.S. states that ban the procedure. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning a constitutional right to abortion in America is also being used as motivator to expand Canada’s abortion services and provide other forms of support to pregnant women.

Canada’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in 1988, 15 years after America’s landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion across the United States. 


Canada is the world’s second-largest land mass, and abortion services are not easily accessible for hundreds of kilometers in some rural areas, but most major urban areas have hospitals or medical centers where they are available.  


Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, the 13 U.S. states along the border with Canada are free to allow abortions, restrict them or ban them entirely. 


Winnipeg is the capital of Manitoba, which borders North Dakota, a state that is expected to restrict access to abortion. 


Blandine Tona, director of clinical programs at the Women’s Health Clinic in Winnipeg, expects to see American patients visit the center, as some did before the coronavirus pandemic. She said this has had less to do with laws and more to do with proximity; some Americans are closer to Winnipeg than to states where abortion is still legal.

Martha Paynter, author of Abortion to Abolition, Reproductive Health Injustice in Canada, is not sure about the number of cross-border trips that might happen to access abortion services.   


Paynter, who has a doctorate in nursing, said there are costs and logistical obstacles for Americans to obtain care in Canada. However, she said, the situation is a motivator to expand access to abortions across the country.

“It seems unlikely because you’d have to pay for the travel, you’d have to have a passport — it would be quite a process,” she said. “I nevertheless think that we should prepare. This is a very good reminder of how we need to be ever vigilant and expanding access.”

Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia shares a stretch of border with Washington state, where abortion services will continue to be widely available, but also Idaho, where a state law will soon ban the procedure if it survives court challenges. 


Michelle Fortin, executive director of Options for Sexual Health, formerly Planned Parenthood Association of British Columbia, said possible immigration issues such as requiring passports and having to cross an international border lead most Americans who seek abortion services to visit the nearest U.S. state that allows it.

Even so, she said, nobody will be turned away in Canada, and many Canadians are looking to offer other types of support as well.

“So I believe that any American that shows up who’s got a pregnancy that is unintended and unwanted would be served,” she said. “I don’t know that we’re going to see huge influx. I do know that there’s a lot of folks in Canada looking for ways in which we can support people in America to access abortion.”

Fortin said this support is mostly financial to help cover travel, child care and other costs for Americans.  She said this might also include sending pharmaceutical abortion medication into the United States, much like what has been done for years with other prescriptions that are cheaper in Canada than in the United States.

Climate Envoy: Despite Legal Setbacks, US to Achieve Goals 

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said Friday that setbacks for President Joe Biden’s climate efforts at home have “slowed the pace” of some of the commitments from other countries to cut climate-wrecking fossil fuels, but he insisted the U.S. would still achieve its own ambitious climate goals in time.

Kerry spoke to The Associated Press after a major Supreme Court ruling Thursday limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s options for regulating climate pollution from power plants. The ruling raised the prospect the conservative-controlled court could go on to hinder other efforts by the executive branch to cut the country’s coal, oil and gas emissions. It came after Democrats failed in getting what was to be Biden’s signature climate legislation through the narrowly divided Senate.

The Biden administration is striving now to show audiences at home and abroad that the U.S. can still make significant climate progress and strike deals with other countries to do the same. Scientists say only a few years are left to stave off the worst levels of global warming that triggers ever more deadly droughts, storms, wildfires and other disasters.

Kerry, Biden’s climate negotiator abroad, said he had not talked to foreign counterparts since the Supreme Court ruling, which some climate scientists called a gut punch and a disaster.

“But I’m confident they’ll ask me questions,” Kerry said. “But my answer is going to be look, we’re going to meet our goals … and the president is going to continue to fight for legislation from the Congress.”

“We absolutely are convinced we can meet our goals,” Kerry said.

Biden has pledged to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade and to have an emissions-free power sector by 2035. Despite two Democrats joining with Republicans to block what was supposed to be transformative legislation moving the United States to cleaner energy, Biden has managed to free significant funding for electric charging stations and some other moves. The EPA has pledged to release alternative regulations to limit climate damage from the power sector early next year.

Kerry cited continuing progress in climate efforts abroad this year, including more governments committing to faster cuts in emissions and more signing a U.S.-backed methane pledge targeting climate-damaging leaks, venting and flaring from natural gas industries.

“This decision by the Supreme Court … is disappointing, but … it doesn’t take away our ability to do a whole bunch of things that we need to get done,” Kerry said.

“President Biden has enormous authority to continue to move forward. We are going to move forward. I am absolutely confident about our ability to continue to offer leadership on a global basis, which we’re doing right now.”

Kerry also pointed to progress the U.S. was making in cutting fossil fuel emissions independently of the government efforts, including through electric cars and other marketplace technological advances, and through clean-energy pushes from California and dozens of other states, mostly those led by Democrats.

Kerry described legislation on tax credits to encourage cleaner energy as commonsense and doable. He declined to talk about the impact if even those failed to clear Congress.

“I wouldn’t be a gloomy-doomy over this,” he said. “I just say we got to work harder and fight harder.”

Asked if it was possible to ask China and other major polluters to make fast moves away from fossil fuels when the U.S. was struggling to meet some of its own goals, Kerry said, “They’ll make their own analysis. That will conceivably have an impact on what they decide to do or not.”

The administration’s setbacks getting major climate retooling through conservatives in Congress and the Supreme Court haven’t hurt the momentum he’s working for abroad in climate negotiations, Kerry insisted. “But I think it’s slowed the pace at which some of these things could happen,” he said.

“If the United States were able to accomplish more regarding our own goals, and we did so rapidly, that would put a lot of pressure on a lot of countries,” he said.


UN Urges Ambitious Action to Protect Oceans

World leaders must do more to protect the oceans, a major U.N. conference concluded Friday, setting its sights on a new treaty to protect the high seas. 

“Greater ambition is required at all levels to address the dire state of the ocean,” the U.N. Ocean Conference in Lisbon said in its final declaration. 

The meeting in the Portuguese capital — attended by government officials, experts and advocates from 140 countries — is not a negotiating forum. But it sets the agenda for final international negotiations in August on a treaty to protect the high seas — those international waters beyond national jurisdiction. 

“Biodiversity loss, the decline of the ocean’s health, the way the climate crisis is going … it all has one common reason, which is … human behavior, our addiction to oil and gas, and all of them have to be addressed,” Peter Thomson, U.N. special envoy for the ocean, told AFP. 

Oceans produce half the oxygen we breathe, regulate the weather and provide humanity’s single largest source of protein. 

They also absorb a quarter of CO2 pollution and 90% of excess heat from global warming, thus playing a key role in protecting life on Earth. 

But they are being pushed to the brink by human activities.  

Sea water has turned acidic, threatening aquatic food chains and the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon. Global warming has spawned massive marine heat waves that are killing off coral reefs and expanding dead zones bereft of oxygen. 

Humans have fished some marine species to the edge of extinction and used the world’s waters as a rubbish dump.  


Patchwork of agreements

Today, a patchwork of agreements and regulatory bodies govern shipping, fishing and mineral extraction from the seabed.

Thomson said he was “very confident” national governments could agree on a “robust but operable” high seas treaty in August. 

Tiago Pitta e Cunha, head of Portuguese foundation Oceano Azul (Blue Ocean), said: “Pressure has increased a lot on less interested countries to create an effective mechanism to protect the high seas.” 

Laura Meller of Greenpeace called for more action. 

“We know that if words could save the oceans, then they wouldn’t be on the brink of collapse,” she told AFP. “So in August when governments meet at the United Nations, they really need to finalize a strong global ocean treaty.” 

Efforts to protect the oceans will then continue at two key summits later this year: U.N. climate talks in November and U.N. biodiversity negotiations in December. 

Overfishing, mining, plastic

At the heart of the draft U.N. biodiversity treaty is a plan to designate 30% of Earth’s land and oceans as protected zones by 2030.

Currently, under 8% of oceans are protected.

A number of new, protected marine areas could be declared off-limits to fishing, mining, drilling or other extractive activities that scientists say disrupt fragile seabed ecosystems. 

Making things worse is an unending torrent of pollution, including a rubbish truck’s worth of plastic every minute, the United Nations says.  

“The ocean is not a rubbish dump,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday. “It is not a source of infinite plunder. It is a fragile system on which we all depend.”