Key statements from States – 21/7/22

Date: 21 July 2022

Chile

  • The Chilean delegation requested to return to France’s statement yesterday.
  • The delegation referenced a statement by DOSI stating that “we don’t know how much we don’t know about the deep sea.” They added that “scientific knowledge is currently insufficient and our understanding of DSM activities on the deep sea is limited in particular on carbon sequestration.”
  • They stated that “Chile is in agreement with a process for negotiation of regulations that are robust, holistic and respect the seabed, but can’t agree with the task being undertaken in a way as to prioritise a contractor starting work running counter to interests of humanity.”
  • Chile commented that “As can be observed during this meeting, we are far from reaching a consensus on regulations.”
  • The delegation also highlighted the need for greater transparency across negotiations, stating that “I insist respectfully for this Council to apply the best standards of transparency. We believe it’s necessary to have a space for at least 2 reps of civil society to participate in the meeting in this room. At IGC4 BBNJ, the Secretary General of UN underscored the need for participation of NGOs. That’s why during the second week, space was given to those participants to join in the room.”
  • They also highlighted short window for review of key documents on financial matters

Ghana

  • Took note of “increasing financial burden brought onto participants especially from developing countries to participate in ISA sessions particularly under this roadmap.”
  • They also stated that they were “also challenged by time constraints regarding distribution of reports and would have preferred more time.”

Germany

  • On budgetary matters highlighted “short period between receiving report and today, so have to reserve our position.
  • Stated that “a clear and effective and enforceable regulatory regime for DSM is imperative and need to include binding with measurable thresholds” and that “so far developed environmental standards by the LTC are lacking such thresholds and largely focus on procedural issues in the preparation of plans of work.”
  • The delegation reminded that UNCLOS Article 145 calls for the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful effects and as such “any plan of work submitted to the authority must comply with this level of protection.” 
  • They added that “UNCLOS provides for emergency orders to prevent serious harm.”
  • Germany stated that “In our paper, we put a particular emphasis on the role of scientific uncertainties which are a key challenge for defining threshold values, in particular for deep sea environments. Both for setting thresholds and for predicting and measuring impacts in advance and in the course of an operation cannot be emphasised enough that robust environmental baseline information Information is essential. We therefore also strongly argued for agreeing a binding standard on baseline data collection with a minimum set of environmental parameters.”
  • They highlighted that “the vast majority of species habitats, and ecological processes are still unknown in the deep sea and state related parameters, such as biodiversity indices, or population level indicators are extremely difficult to measure.  Due to the urgency and to the high level of expertise needed, we suggest establishing an intersessional working mode to one or more specialised working groups led by volunteering state parties.”

Costa Rica

  • On budgetary matters:
    •  The delegation “would have preferred greater commitment better adapted to the current situation e.g. $27,000 for receptions is a superfluous expense. In travel expenses $655,000 “for such a small organisation where not all members have to travel seems to be a huge sum.” They also raised concerns that there had been little time to review reports
    • They also pointed out that an “Audit finance committee had been requested by the UN Council of Auditors instead of Ernst & Young” which was not agreed upon. The delegation highlighted that it is more important to invest budget in UN audits rather than receptions.
    • The delegation commented that there was also no budget allocated for a “study on environmental costs within the financial mechanism”
  • On marine protection and environmental matters:
    • Costa Rica stated that “Sometimes it seems we say something is green or sustainable but the name isn’t a guarantee that it’s the right programme. We need time to do our own due diligence and we don’t have enough time to decide that this is what we want to do with the common heritage of humanity.”
    • The delegation added that “we are all trying to find the best way to bring to life the precautionary principle.”

Trinidad and Tobago

  • The delegation stated that a compliance unit is “Imperative” to “monitor and oversee activities and adherence to rules as we seek to protect Area from harmful effects.”

Japan

  • Recognised that “the ISA is an organisation in transition to an exploitation phase and the Council works towards adoption of regulations for exploitation of mineral resources in the Area” which they “fully support.”

Belgium

  • On financial matters:
    • Belgium echoed other delegations concerns on the late publication of reports 
  • On environmental matters:
    • The delegation stated that “we have called the commencement procedure for an exploitation contract before settling the institutional matters, irresponsible… we equally think it would be irresponsible to commence such a procedure prior to the adoption of normative environmental objectives.”

Spain

  • On financial matters
    • Spain called for more time to assess reports
    • The delegates agreed with recommendations to use UN Court for Auditors as it exists for these purposes and would permit standardisation with other UN Agencies
    • Spain supported Costa Rica on the need to have a study on environmental costs and its relationship to the budget stating that “This was reiterated in March and earlier this week – several delegations have reaffirmed that we need to internalise costs so we need to know what they are.”
  • On environmental matters, the delegation commented that
    • “Firstly, the protection and preservation of the marine environment is a priority for many delegations present here and for my delegation, which has been expressed on various occasions within the organs of the principal organs of the authority, the Assembly and the Council. This is a reflection of the awareness on environmental matters that exists nationally and internationally and we cannot ignore that.We have the obligation to effectively protect the marine environment within the legal framework of the convention and the 1994 agreement.”
    • “Against that backdrop, we support what has been said by France and also the statements made by Chile and other delegations. 
    • That the famous two year clause does not oblige us to move to the exploitation phase if the environmental measures are not adequate. 
    • And if only economic or market based elements are taken care of Spain agrees with our precautionary approach the precautionary principle gives us the opportunity to anticipate negative impacts on the environment and there are consequences such as the loss of biodiversity.
    • They added that “seabed mining should not take place until there is an adequate legal framework that ensures impacts are minimised before contractors undertake exploitation, as we have said on previous occasions, exploitation rules need more legal strength and the strongest possible environmental guarantees.”
    • The delegation also commented that “If polluters are not accountable, the public has to pay the cost, and this is why we have the public interest referenced and justifies this inclusion of public interest in our view.”

United Kingdom

  • Supported “having a threshold to ensure effective protection, not just threshold alone but a wider assessment to ensure protection from harmful effects.”
  • The UK stated that their preference was to include the “precautionary principle.” 
  • The delegation added that they are “working on a proposal to ease public access of information and to improve transparency across the regulations as a whole. All information related to contract areas should be available unless it is confidential.”
  • They also stated that they “agree to add the polluter pay principle.”

Mexico

  • The delegation stated that “Exploitation can’t begin before that regulatory framework is complete” grounded in scientific evidence, responding to the need to “preserve and protect the marine environment and its resources.”
  • They also stressed “the importance of baseline systems and environmental references. These are important to assess the environmental impact of any project.”
  • Mexico stated that “We consider that we should strike out reference that states “immediately above a mine site or minerals derived from mine site”, and instead use “transportation of minerals from site of mining to on-land facilities” … so this is managed holistically with all stakeholders are involved and all precautionary principles is understood in full protection of the environment of the harm of exploitation activities that may be caused as well as the connected activities like transporting nodules or being processed. Processing not necessarily done in mining area, illicit harmful geographic effects, effects harmful effects to marine environment”
  • The delegation stated that they would “prefer to use precautionary principle instead of approach

Brazil

  • The Brazilian delegation commented that a “big discussion is still needed, so the ISA can establish environmental thresholds to balance and can be considered acceptable”. They continued that “As far as separate impacts are concerned like sediment, life noise, etc, several concepts still need to be clarified, like serious harm, rare and unique systems etc.”
  • Delegates also highlighted concerns around effective control 

Netherlands

  • The delegation stated that “thresholds are important in informing our future work.”

Finland

  • Finland considered the paper presented by Germany “ a good starting point for further development of instructions on how to set normative environmental thresholds.” They also stressed the need to apply the precautionary principle when setting these thresholds.

Australia

  • Australia stated that they fully supported the need for strong environmental protection.

Italy

  • The Italian delegation commented that “We are fully aware of the potential impacts on marine ecosystems and the functioning of…the ocean as a climate regulator. In committing to negotiations we support the highest standard of protection.” 

France

  • France considered that “It is extremely difficult to set thresholds due to lack of scientific knowledge and therefore we encourage a continuation of scientific research in order to be able to determine these thresholds as precisely as possible. In order in order to protect the environment as effectively as possible, we might suggest to add an indicator on pressure, for example, that leads to the destruction of habitats”
  • The delegation supported the inclusion of the “precautionary principle.” 

Nauru

  • Nautu commented that environmental thresholds are “very important for the protection of the marine environment. We fully support this work.”
  • The delegation stated that “we seek clarification on wording with “public interest”, what are these implications? This is really important to clarify”

Federated States of Micronesia

  • FSM stated that it is crucial that “work be carried out in a careful, transparent, and responsible manner.”
  • “As we have strived to do so for a while now, Micronesia continues to engage in good faith in the careful, transparent, and responsible development of the Mining Code of the ISA. We do so under two major guiding principles. First, if proposed exploitation activities in the Area are to be considered by the Authority, then this consideration must be in accordance with an internationally-agreed, complete and clear set of regulations, standards, and guidelines that ensure the robust and effective protection and preservation of the marine environment, in line with the Convention and the Part XI Agreement. Second, the consideration of proposed exploitation activities must be based on a comprehensive suite of data, knowledge, and information about the Area and the surrounding marine environment that could be impacted by such proposed exploitation activities, including the relevant traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.”
  • The delegation highlighted that “In our view, we are quite a long way from satisfying both principles, and we may very likely not reach that stage for a long while to come.”
  • “In light of these concerns, Micronesia recently joined the Alliance of Countries for a Deep-Sea Mining Moratorium, alongside several of our fellow Pacific Island countries. Micronesia recognizes that there are different views about how a moratorium can be implemented in accordance with the Convention and the Part XI Agreement, and we acknowledge that other delegations have called for various iterations of a pause or some other type of precautionary step other than a moratorium. We are happy to discuss these matters with all interested delegations in good faith going forward, while remaining fully mindful of Micronesia’s core concerns about how much work remains in order to complete a robust Mining Code and secure a comprehensive set of data, knowledge, and information about the Area and the potential harmful effects of exploitation activities.”
  • “To conclude, Micronesia’s commitment to international action through the careful, transparent, and responsible development of the Mining Code is motivated not just by my government’s deep care and concern for the marine environment of the Area, but also by our own national efforts to safeguard our own national territory and jurisdiction. Micronesia has committed to effectively managing 100 percent of our maritime territory by 2030, including protecting a minimum of 30 percent of our maritime territory and a minimum of 50 percent of our coastal marine territory by 2030. We cannot achieve these goals unless there is a Mining Code in place that, among other things, allows for rigorous and transparent impact assessments to ensure that the environmental, social, cultural, and economic risks of deep seabed mining are comprehensively understood, including how biodiversity loss and species extinction can be prevented, in line with the precautionary principle, ecosystem approach, and the polluter pays principle, among other factors.”
  • “The Ocean is a unitary whole, and what happens in the international seabed Area could very well impact coastal waters and territories.”
  • FSM stated that they’d prefer to use “precautionary principle rather than approach.”

Norway

  • Norway stated the need for “exploitation regulations with stringent standards while following the precautionary principle”
  • The delegation supported the UK in ensuring that all environmental documents and data are made available.

Indonesia 

  • The delegation stated that “the application of precautionary principle is our preference.” 

Russia

  • Russia stated that “We should provide for protection of the marine environment from possible consequences of processing of extracted minerals, but we think that this would exceed the mandate of this authority. This authority should act in the area, and in the area, we can only do exploration and exploitation”

Portugal 

  • The delegation commented that they see regulations as “focused on outcomes” but they “must be focused on protection of marine environments.”
  • The delegation stated a preference for the “precautionary principle rather than approach.”

New Zealand

  • The delegation stated that their key priority “is that any framework protects the marine environment. We consider all aspects of mining need to be assessed and evaluated – including processing on ships.”

USA

  • The delegation pointed out that on “remediation of harm” in regulations, “full remediation may not be successful, so reducing harm must be emphasised.”  

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