Global Ocean Treaty: how people power helped protect the oceans

Under pressure from millions of people around the world, governments finally secured a Global Ocean Treaty.


Governments have finally agreed a Global Ocean Treaty at the United Nations, after almost two decades of negotiations. It sets the rules and tools for protecting ocean life over nearly half of our planet. Most importantly, it provides a pathway to creating marine protected areas across the world’s oceans.

This treaty is the biggest conservation victory ever. It’s a huge moment for our blue planet, and a hopeful sign that in a divided world, protecting nature for the benefit of all people can triumph over global politics.

Campaigners and ocean lovers around the world have spent decades working towards this moment. The very first Greenpeace briefing on this topic was written way back in 2005! 

And in recent years, millions of people spoke up for ocean protection, demanding that their governments negotiate a strong treaty.

Finally, after a tense final week of negotiations, world leaders finally put aside their differences for a moment and secured a Global Ocean Treaty. 

Campaigning to save life on our planet can sometimes feel like a daunting task, and it’s easy to get discouraged. This monumental win for ocean protection is a great reminder that taking action makes a difference and that people power works!

Let’s keep winning

This victory reminds us that when we work together, we can change the world. But bold, effective campaigns like this are only possible with long-term support. You can help by joining Greenpeace as a regular giver today.

Support Greenpeace

Here’s a quick look at what’s been accomplished, what it took to get here, and what comes next:

What does a Global Ocean Treaty actually do?

30x30 - the most important number in the oceans

‘30x30’ is a nickname for the goal of protecting at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. Governments recently adopted the goal as an official target. Greenpeace has campaigned for 30x30 for many years, and scientists agree this is the minimum required to give the oceans space to recover from centuries of harmful human activities.

The new Global Ocean Treaty finally makes it possible to create a network of ocean sanctuaries across the globe, areas where fragile ecosystems and marine life can recover and thrive.

This gives governments the opportunity to actually reach the vital ‘30×30’ ocean protection target that they committed to just three months ago. Without a treaty, there would be no legal route to protecting large areas of international waters.

Healthy oceans help combat climate change by locking away carbon, and provide food and livelihoods to more than three billion people – mostly in the Global South.

The global oceans belong to all of us, and everyone should be able to enjoy the vital benefits they provide. The treaty also enables a fairer approach to looking after our oceans, giving everyone a chance to study and create knowledge about them.

How did we get here?

One thing is for certain, it wouldn’t have been possible without years of relentless people power efforts. Over five million people from around the world signed the petition, building a movement to protect our oceans. And this wasn’t just a Greenpeace victory. So many organisations big and small worked tirelessly over decades to make this happen.

Aerial view of a whale drawn in the sand of a beach. People wearing blue lie in a circle around it, and a speech bubble-shaped banner coming from the whale shows Korean text.
Local fishermen on colourful traditional boats display banners with various messages including “Protect the Oceans” and “Stop Fishmeal”.
A group of volunteers dressed in bright blue clothes smile into the camera.
'Protect the oceans' slogan is projected on the side of the iconic Chrysler building in New York.

Negotiators from governments around the world also worked hard to get an agreement over the line. And unlike in previous rounds of negotiations, countries showed a willingness to compromise in the final days of talks.

The group of Small Island States were vital leaders throughout the process. The G77 group of ‘developing’ countries worked hard to ensure the treaty can be put into practice fairly. And the EU, US and UK, and China were key players in negotiating the deal.

What comes next?

Editing and translation

The text will now go through technical editing and translation, before it’s officially adopted.


After that, at least 60 countries need to formally sign (or ‘ratify’) the treaty so that it enters into force. The UK played a really important part in winning this treaty, so we’ll be looking to the government to take the lead on this.

Creating new sanctuaries

In the meantime, the work can start towards creating the first ocean sanctuaries under the treaty. Nations will be able to propose new sanctuaries at regular conferences, where countries will vote on whether to approve them. Greenpeace has teamed up with leading scientists to create a blueprint for where these sanctuaries should go, and we’ll be campaigning to make this a reality.

Pushing for progress

This treaty opens up a path to a better future for our oceans. Now the world needs to follow that path as quickly as possible. We know from past campaigns that companies and governments always need to be held to their promises, and it’ll be up to all of us to defend this victory.

Let’s keep winning

This victory reminds us that when we work together, we can change the world. But bold, effective campaigns like this are only possible with long-term support. You can help by joining Greenpeace as a regular giver today.

Support Greenpeace

What's next?