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Jane Fonda just delivered 5.5 million signatures to the UN. Here’s why.

by Emmaly Anderson

Even in the wake of a recent cancer diagnosis, beloved actress and lifelong activist Jane Fonda is using her platform to advocate for change. An established environmental advocate, the Grace and Frankie star is demanding a Global Ocean Treaty that tackles the impact of pollution, overfishing, global warming, and deep sea mining on the world’s oceans. On February 21, 2023, during the fifth round of the United Nations’ Ocean Treaty negotiations, Fonda delivered 5.5 million signatures from 157 countries calling for a strong Global Ocean Treaty to Rena Lee, president of the negotiations. In a statement at the event coordinated by Only One and the Greenpeace global network, Fonda said, “We need a Global Ocean Treaty and we need it now. It is at our own peril to delay any further. I urge you as a mother, a grandmother, and a citizen of this world – let’s set aside the politics, the special interests, and the inertia that tends to drag big, bold ideas into the ground, and let’s get this done – for every life on Earth.” 



After 15 years – a decade and a half – of talks and deliberation, it is anticipated that this round of UN Ocean Treaty negotiations will be the last. According to Greenpeace, if the treaty Fonda is advocating for is not agreed upon during this round, it is unlikely that 30% of our world’s oceans will be protected by 2030 – a goal that is part of the 30×30 target established at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) last year as part of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). All governments agreed to this target in December 2022 – but we all know about those in power following through on agreements.

 Aiming to address biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems, and protect indigenous rights, the GBF includes concrete measures to halt and reverse the loss of nature, including putting protection plans in place for 30 percent of the planet and 30 percent of degraded ecosystems by 2030. This target is said by scientists to be the absolute minimum necessary for our oceans to recover from decades of pollution, overfishing, and other industrial activities. With less than 5% of the world’s oceans currently protected, a UN Ocean Treaty is essential to reaching this target. Given that the ocean makes up 70% of our planet and provides 50% of our oxygen, it’s pretty damn terrifying to think of the consequences if this target isn’t met. 

Though many still know her mostly for her iconic ‘80s aerobics videos, Jane Fonda has been a dedicated climate activist for years. In 2019, she moved to Washington, D.C. and, inspired by the work of Greta Thunberg, started Fire Drill Fridays, a weekly demonstration on Capitol Hill demanding that action be taken by political leaders to address the climate emergency. She was arrested on her 82nd birthday while participating in a Fire Drill Friday protest. Last year, Fonda created the Jane Fonda Climate PAC with one goal: “Do what it takes to defeat fossil fuel supporters and elect climate champions at all levels of government.” She recounts her journey as an environmental activist in her book, What Can I Do? The Path From Climate Despair to Action

Fonda’s long history of activism is not limited to addressing climate change, however. In the 1960s and ‘70s, she became notorious for her impassioned opposition to the Vietnam War and support of the Black Panthers, leading her to be under FBI surveillance. She has also been a champion for the rights of women and indigenous people since the ‘70s and famously protested the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock just a few years back. You can support Jane Fonda’s ongoing activist efforts under the “Get Involved” tab on her website.

Photographed by Tiffany Nicholson

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