Key statements from States – 22/7/22

Date: 22 July 2022

Costa Rica

  • “I would like to begin by reiterating the call made by Costa Rica on the first day of the meeting, and the request that we as GRULAC made in writing to the Secretariat: let us allocate space within the room for observers: civil society and academics. All these days we have seen empty seats, and tables with leaflets occupying spaces that could be occupied by observers. We cannot fit all of them, but we can assign  3 or 4 places that I am sure they will be willing to take care of distributing among themselves. Preferring empty seats than having  observers in the room is not the image that we as the Authority want to give to the world, at least not the GRULAC delegations. Firstly, it is unacceptable, and secondly, it is a decision for the States Parties.  That is why we join Chile’s call for spaces for observers in this room to be allocated starting next week.”
  • “Humanity faces very serious environmental problems, many of which are directly reflected in the health of our ocean, and which,  because they have not been addressed in time, have been impossible to control, despite all the efforts and commitments achieved. I’m talking about issues like overfishing, biodiversity loss, plastic pollution, climate change.”
  • “But we have now a new situation that could become a terrible threat to the ocean and to the planet that we can do something about.  I am referring the start of seabed mining if we do it before we have enough scientific information to comply with the mandate of the effective protection of the marine environment, as required by Article 145.  This threat has been exacerbated by the activation of what we now know as the two-year rule.”
  • “We have been saying for several days that we believe in the importance of meeting all the strictest environmental standards to protect the marine environment. We have mentioned several articles of Part XII of UNCLOS and we have referred to and quoted the text of Article 145 more than 60 times, my delegation has been keeping track. But what we have not yet said, the real elephant in the room ,is that if we really want to be coherent, the only way to comply with Article 145, at the moment, is to commit ourselves to not start the exploitation of the seabed until we have enough data to be able to make informed decisions.”
  • “In other words, it is not possible to commit to compliance with Article 145, and at the same time insist on starting to mine, knowing that we do not have enough scientific information to be able to effectively protect the marine environment, its ecosystems and biodiversity from the harmful effects of mining. There are many studies by  very respected scientists that detail all these gaps , starting with having the environmental baselines, as mentioned by Mexico, as well as information on the effects and impacts of mining, as mentioned by Germany and hence its proposal for test mining.”
  • “For this we must define environmental objectives and goals, establish a global research agenda that allows us to generate new and sufficient ecological, biological and environmental information on the deep sea and seabed, as well as synthesize existing information.  We cannot make decisions based on evidence if we do not have the necessary information. In other spaces we can talk about “best available science”. Not in relation to the seabed, because there is so little data that is not enough to be able to make informed decisions. Here we must talk about “sufficient scientific evidence”, and that is what we must dedicate ourselves to, to get that evidence.”
  • “Some will say that all mining presents risks to the environment.  And so it is. But seabed mining in the Area is different: it is the only resource we govern as a global community. It is also the only resource in human history that we have the opportunity to regulate before its exploitation is underway.  That is why  we have the enormous responsibility to do it well, taking all the necessary time.”
  • “There are those who express their  concern based in some studies that indicate that in about 30 years the terrestrial mining resources necessary for the transition to electric transportation will run out. 30 years dedicated to the exploration of the deep sea and the seabed would give an immense opportunity to explore it and to be able to make decisions based on enough data to protect its biodiversity and ecosystems.  We are not saying that we have to wait 30 years. But  years are not enough, not three, possibly not five … and certainly the year left until July 2023 is not enough, not even in the projections of the most optimistic, if we are realistic.”
  • “That is why Costa Rica believes that as beneficiaries but also responsible for the  Common Patrimony of Humanity, we must act with caution.  We must act with caution. That caution requires us to implement a precautionary delay to the start of seabed mining. History presents us with a long list of situations that we could have avoided if the precautionary principle or approach had been implemented. Let us not allow this to become a late lesson from an early warning.”
  • “Finally, we want to say that the invocation of Article 15 does not mean that our only option is to pass a regulation in a hurry, one that is clearly unable of fulfilling the duty of protection.  The same article contemplates the possibility that it the regulations might not be concluded, in which case it  says that in case a plan of work  is presented it can be provisionally approved. The conditions of that provisional approval will be our decision. We may put the provisional environmental measures that we consider appropriate, as well as all the conditions that we consider necessary to comply with Article 145. Or we can decide  not to approve it.” 
  • “We do not know what the future will look like, neither for us as delegates nor for the ocean. What is undeniable is that as representatives of our countries and of humanity we have an immense responsibility that fate has placed in our hands. We can get it  right and truly commit ourselves to comply with article 145. Let us continue to work on the elaboration of the most robust and solid regulations , from the environmental point of view, but also from the point of view of transparency and governance;  lets support, encourage and direct resources towards the necessary scientific research; and let us pledge not to submit or approve  plans of work until we have filled the gaps in scientific information and can say  without any doubt, that we can effectively protect the marine environment from any damage arising from activities in the area.”

Canada

  • “Any regulations must ensure effective protection using the precautionary approach using scientific based decision making. This aligns with the high level panel.”
  • “Being a coastal state to 3 oceans, on which we rely on, Canada is a friend of the ocean. We reiterate our commitment to ocean health at the recent UNOC, including our support for 30×30.”
  • “We take note of recent interventions on the 2 year rule and calls for a moratorium, and we look forward to productive discussions so we can decide collectively on the best approach in the spirit of the agreement.”
  • The delegation stated that “it is impossible to offset for damage to the seabed if you consider all the scientific information” and therefore they could not support the term “offset” in regulations.

Belgium

  • Stated a preference for “REMPs for particular areas to be in place before a plan of work for an area can be considered” and that the delegation “Don’t want a tight deadline for developing the REMP, the two year deadline we are currently experiencing leads to shoddy work.”

Ghana

  • Stated that coastal states consultation should “extend to any adjacent coastal states.”
  • Called for the inclusion of a “no mining” scenario.

Germany

  • Shared concerns of Costa Rica on offsetting

Russia

  • The delegation agreed with Costa Rica and others that “indeed it is impossible to offset the harmful effect on the environment”. They continued “However, if any effect is is sustained by the region, perhaps the contractor may offset that by taking action. So, to protect the coral reefs in another part of the global ocean, so, this is a type of an offset so, offsetting measures be taken else where therefore, perhaps as far as offset is concerned”
  • The delegation also queried whether “we should give an alternative is that no deep sea mining is done at all.”
  • Russia also stated that “it is evident that some of the guidelines must be adopted before any plan of work is accepted and of course before exploitation. Without standards and guidelines there will be nothing protecting those areas.”

Federated States of Micronesia

  • Called for reference to the impacts of “light and noise” in regulations.

Tonga

Tonga stated that they were “concerned by the apparent lack of progress in respect to the identification and preparation by the Commission of the phase two standards and guidelines.”

 

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