Costa Rica – Key statements

Date: 11 November 2022

March 2023

31/3/23

  • Very concerned with the NORI test mining process in November 2022 and the way in which inspection and compliance was undertaken.
    • Concerned that only after the incident was revealed by civil society did the contractor accepted that an incident had occurred. Costa Rica had no information that Secretary General was informed prior. This should have been a Council discussion.
    • Testing was not halted as precautionary measure.
  • Council agreed that there would be discussion held on the continued to use silence procedure and we are still waiting for this discussion.

27/3/23

  • I would like to express my concern that some measures were adopted without consultation of the Council which seem to affect the transparency of the ISA.
  • Our delegation would like to reiterate our position:
    • 1) A legal and robust framework for the protection of the marine environment – UNCLOS Article 145. This is includes standards and guidelines s and REMPs.
      • 2) We need fact based assessments of any plan of work, based on sufficient science.
    • 3) Institutionalization of the ISA – ensuring transparency and accountability for issues that could affect the credibility of this institution.
  • Since we do not have these – and on the basis of the precautionary approach we are calling for a precautionary pause.
  • We believe more work is needed to understand these unique ecosystems. There are more and more states that share this vision.
  • My delegation has already expressed our opinion – we believe the Council should take a proactive role and give instructions to it subsidiary organs.

16/3/23

  • Backed the call made by Canada to have more time for intersessional work and the ‘What If’ scenario.

October/November 2022

11/11/22

  • The delegation warned that if Sponsoring states are not notified of environmental damage by contractors, they could be responsible for damage.
  • Shared concerns around effective control
  • Stated that for certain regulations, the more they are read, the less sense they make.
  • Reiterated the mandate of the Authority “to protect the common heritage of humankind”
  • On the ISA’s updated roadmap – the delegation expressed that they were happy to see adoption of regulations on the ISA’s previous roadmap in July 2023 changed in line with Brazil’s proposal to ‘reviewed’ in July 2023, stating that this doesn’t represent a commitment and that we don’t have a sword of Damocles as Chile put it.
  • The delegation stated that not making enough progress is a likely possibility.
  • Costa Rica also requested more time for the roadmap in the next meeting and not the last day, to discuss issues once again.
  • Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica stated that the area contains the common heritage of mankind not only mineral minerals, it’s also a very useful reserve of biodiversity of and a source of unknown genetic resources and a strength for the cycles of the planet and offers a lot of ecosystem services.

10/11/22

  • Congratulated and applauded France for their action. 
  • Oceans are already facing many challenges. We should not put additional pressures on this ecosystem, such as seabed mining, without respecting the effective protection of the marine environment. 
  • Effective protection is a precondition for mining and Costa Rica therefore suggested that the Authority lead an ambitious and strategic scientific programme to ensure there is enough information to assess applications and protection of the environment can be ensured. 
  • Regarding the approval of the NORI Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Costa Rica raised concerns about the contents of the EIS, the submission and publication process, and the inclusion of stakeholder consultation. 
  • The Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) should make public the final EIA, including the way in which comments were taken into account and the detailed process followed for the decision to approve it without rationale. 
  • There need to be consequences for non-compliance and Costa Rica supports the intervention by The Netherlands for the names of the contractors that did not fulfill their contractual obligations to be shared. 
  • Costa Rica also called for the LTC to not use the silence procedure for future substantive issues

9/11/22

  • On the proposal by Germany regarding environmental thresholds and the role of the Legal and Technical Commission, Costa Rica raised concerns about the role of contractors in the creation of environmental thresholds and the appointment of experts. The appointment of experts should occur in full transparency, independent of contractors. 
  • This was echoed by Chile, Brazil, Panama and New Zealand.

4/11/22

  • The delegation stated that we have neither the required legal framework nor the scientific data, it is why in July 2022 we have made an appeal, we apply the precautionary approach or principle.
  • Costa Rica stated that it is impossible to pretend that we’ll have a legal framework by July 23 on which we should have consensus and that it is not because of a lack of goodwill that we will conclude in July, but simply because it’s something impossible.
  • Costa Rica stated that 90% of the delegates have noted that regulations may not be possible to adopt in July 2023.

3/11/22

  • The delegation highlighted their concerns around effective control.
  • On REMPs, Costa Rica stated that it is not logical that “a subsidiary organ does not attach sufficient importance to documents that were referred by the Council. We think that is about precedent for the future, when the LTC will have a lot more sensitive work to do. Perhaps at first glance, it could seem that these documents are good, because, in reality, there has been an improvement as regards the establishment of the rent for the Clarion Clipperton zone. However, if we’re being honest, anything is better than the way in which the rent for the Clarion Clipperton zone was agreed.”
  • The delegation stated that the recruitment of experts can’t continue as it has done and that it should go through the council, ensuring no conflict of interests.
  • On the northern Mid-Atlantic REMP, Costa Rica stated “In reality, I don’t know how we can be asked to approve such an important document with all of these knowledge gaps contained in it. As a result, Mr. President, Costa Rica cannot support this proposed REMP nor do I think we can even vote on this issue until this REMP has been amended.”
  • Costa Rica stated that environmental thresholds are of the utmost importance and we need to do it.

2/11/22

  • Costa Rica proposed to devote a full day of the Council meeting to discussions on the options ISA Council Members would have in the event that in July, no agreement on draft regulations is reached, as well as a discussion on the legal options the Council and or Authority would have.
  • This proposal was backed by Chile, Belgium, Brazil and Canada.

31/10/22

  • Costa Rica reiterated support for a precautionary pause highlighting a lack of sufficient scientific evidence to fulfill the requirement of effective protection of the marine environment.

July/August 2022

4/8/22

  • Costa Rica made the following statement on the 2-year rule:
  • Costa Rica is concerned about the way in which due to the triggering by one delegation of the so-called two-year rule, there’s an effort to constrain and oblige states to, in a haphazard way come up with a legal framework, which is of the utmost importance when speaking about the exploitation regulations.
  •  Many of the provisions are still at the fledgling stage, we need to be very clear that annex one paragraph 15 is a legal recourse established in the implementation agreement. However, this is one of the many matters in which our legal framework is not clear and is liable to be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, the rule indicates in a) that the council may undertake such an elaboration of rules, regulations, and procedures needed for the development of activities in the area in two scenarios. 
  • Anytime the council deems that all or any of such rules, regulations and procedures are required for the conduct of activities in the area
  •  Or a request of a state, whose national intends to apply for approval of a plan of work?
  • Those are the two alternate options. So in this situation, the council had already used alternate option one we had already undertaken the drafting of the regulation for exploitation since July 2019. This gives rise to our first debt. If the article speaks about alternative options, then is it legally viable to resort to the second option when the council has already started the elaboration of regulations in 2019, using the first alternative.
  •  Now to turn to our second doubt, and that is the validity of resorting to the two-year rule in the midst of a pandemic when it was practically impossible to advance in our deliberations much less conclude deliberations. 
  • My deviation would question that validity firstly, because in triggering the two year rule, we did so using none of the rationale for which this was included in the text. 
  • If we read the relevant text, it’s noted that this article is included for it to cover two situations. 
  • Firstly, a state is ready to start exploitation and negotiations of the regulations have not yet begun. That was not the case. 
  • Second scenario is a state is ready to exploit and in the context of the negotiations a stalemate has been reached. Neither does that apply. 
  • We are wondering about the legal validity also because although UNCLOS doesn’t speak to what happens in cases of force majeure, there is a principle that all lawyers learn at the outset of learning of studying the law. 
  • That is ‘nobody is obliged to do the impossible.’ As such, can timeline be triggered when there is force majeure that impedes its fulfilment? My delegation believes not.
  • There are many other matters on which we have very little legal certainty. For example, paragraph C of the article states that if the two year rule elapses and the council has not finished developing the rules and there is a pending plan of action for exploitation, the council may approve that plan of work on a provisional basis.
  • Therefore, what happens if the two years elapsed and that plan of work has not been submitted? In this case, there would not be a pending request. Does that mean that the timeframe elapses and must be reactivated or triggered again, if there is a pending request. What does it mean to provisionally adopt or approve it? In the provisional law of treaties, it speaks of temporality… therefore, could, the council decide to approve it in a short timeframe, while work on the regulations goes on. What type of rights does provisional granting or approval give it? What steps must be taken by contractors to fulfil their obligations vis a vis  the definitive regulations once they have been adopted from approved if the approved initial approval was provisional?
  • There are many more doubts than areas of clarity and this is really open to misinterpretation. Perhaps it might be worth addressing these questions to the body that implements our legal framework. Namely ITLOS In addition, as previously stated, Costa Rica believes that legally speaking, there is no obligation to conclude the negotiations in two years. Firstly, because this very article says that the timeframe can lapse without regulations having been elaborated.
  • Also, because there are principles at play here that we as humanity must apply the precautionary approach. 
  • There are principles at play here namely that when there is nature should be given the benefit of that doubt. And here we are referring to article 145 of the Convention, which imposes on us an obligation to effectively protect the marine environment from the harm that may derive from activities in the area. 
  • Exploration has occurred in less than 1% of the deep seabed
  • We know hardly anything about the marvellous species that live there. And if we don’t know anything about them, how can we protect them? Without the necessary information for establishing baselines without having the knowledge on the effects that mining will have on species but also on the carbon that is captured at the seabed that could be released into the environment, it is impossible to develop rules, regulations and procedures which will allow the LTC to assess plans of work in fulfilment of their obligations under the convention. 
  • Therefore, Costa Rica believes that there is a need to implement a precautionary pause we should use the last eight years that remain of the UN Decade of ocean science to promote and finance marine scientific research that will allow us to gain knowledge with regard to what is at the deep seabed before we take actions that will cause irreversible harm. 
  • This is an immense responsibility and is on all of our shoulders. As a result ,we cannot achieve all of this in one year, two year or five years. We need time to do it properly. And as the proverb says, better to do things properly done with haste. 
  • On bringing forward the Assembly meeting:
  • “In line with what was said by Chile. When we were speaking about the 2-year rule which has to be complied with by next summer. It’s an important issue to be discussed, if it cannot be discussed now. If the next assembly session is in July, it will be quite late. Therefore, it’s vital for us that we have an opportunity to discuss this as an Assembly not just as a council before July. whether in the form of an extraordinary season in April or a regular session in July or move the session in april and then convene an extraordinary session in July. Either is fine with us.”
  • “Costa Rica is gravely concerned that we are simply told that it is complicated to respond to a request by a state party. We are the authority. We should not simply be told that things are not complicated. In December 2021 – a meeting was arranged in 2 months with venue and interpreter.” 
  • “We are a little surprised that we are simply told that things are complicated. It was more complicated in July. We have not had the chance to discuss a very important issue. Very complicated to prepare a report in 8 months. There should be reports that we can present in July and have a special assembly to present. And not just have the argument that it is complicated because we know it is very important.”
  • On cutting off observers: “Cutting off abruptly the observers is not ideal. It’s not like we have reached 6 pm on Friday and we have to finish. I would like to apologize to the observers because I want to hear what they have to say.”

1/8/22

  • Supported Chile’s proposal, “with enthusiasm” stating that “Since this is a matter that many of us have mentioned in our interventions, we’ve never had a specific space to discuss it. Time is running out, we have a deadline that some consider that some consider meaningful and others not, and we are making efforts to develop regulations, but all of us in the council noted there is a lot more work to do.”
  • Called for strengthening of ocean governance in and beyond national jurisdiction and that they look forward to BBNJ treaty .
  • The delegation stated their commitment to continue to constructively engage in ISA negotiations to develop a solid, fair, environmentally sound regulations that guarantees protection of marine environment as per Article 145.

29/7/22

  • Supported the operationalization of an EPC commenting that it is very important to jump start it so can start developing policies as well as carrying out functions of assessments on price of minerals and supply and demand.

28/7/22

  • Costa Rica agreed with other delegates on the importance of seeing the Authority manifest austerity. It is not the right time to support the creation of new, non essential positions.
  • The delegation also reiterated that we have seen several important proposals on the protection of the marine environment, but there is no study on the environmental costs for mining. They stated that this was something agreed upon in March and requested that this be added to the budget, replacing non essential expenditure.
  • The delegation called for the Council to work from documents that the included all comments and not only those of the members of council dating from 2019.
  • Costa Rica responded to the LTC Chair who told the Council that the LTC do not identify contractors not fulfilling obligations, stating that ultimately Council has the responsibility for deciding if a contract is extended or not, so think it’s important for the members to know the work of the contractors. Earthworks also called for more transparency and making this information public.
  • Costa Rica stated that the objective of a study on the environmental costs of deep-sea mining would be to determine what the value is of what we would be losing. We need to know that there is a net benefit to humankind.
  • The delegation called for an inclusive and transparent space wherein scientific experts can work together to define these thresholds.

26/7/22

  • Called for more time to review important documents and be notified of their publication.
  • Costa Rica stated that they had the same concern as Italy – noting that potential to change nationality and sponsorship was a surprise – is there effective control if that is easy to change?
  • The delegation also questioned the timing of the two year rule, commenting that “In many parts of report, there are mention of obligations not fulfilled due to limitations caused by COVID – but what Costa Rica do not understand is why the pandemic wasn’t taken into account in activating a 2-year deadline, since the request arrived during the worst of pandemic. They called for this to be taken into account now as we consider whether deadline needs to be fulfilled and whether the rule has truly been activated. 
  • The delegation stated that they would like more information especially on the question on who the contractors are that are not complying

25/7/22

  • The delegation called for “evaluation by independent experts” and called for evaluation to “cover the whole life cycle of contract.”
  • Costa Rica warned that recent studies have shown that underwater noise as a result of deep-sea mining problem is larger than we previously thought.
  • The delegation supported only using the word harm in regulations in line with Art. 145 to prevent “harmful effects” on the marine environment.
  • Costa Rica called for independent auditors to be used.
  • Costa Rica stated that the issue of effective control is vital.

22/7/22

  • “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.”

21/7/22

  • 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.”

20/7/22

  • Costa Rica highlighted that a Compliance Committee “should be established before the first exploitation contract is signed, for obvious reasons.”

18/7/22

  • Called for full transparency in negotiations and the reinstatement of UN Web TV so that remote delegates, observers and media could follow meeting proceedings.
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