Thank you Mr. President and good morning delegates. We recognise the desire to move on but we hope the delegates will indulge us for a few minutes more – we would like to thank the Federated States of Micronesia and Belgium for supporting our active participation in this conversation.
I speak on behalf of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and our 100 plus member organisations, many of whom sit alongside us today. We’d like to start by extending our thanks to the host State of Jamaica and ISA Sec staff for your kind hospitality.
We are only 4 months away from potentially green-lighting deep-seabed mining under the two-year rule, in spite of significant environmental concerns, vast gaps in knowledge and understanding of deep-sea ecosystems, and widespread resistance to the industry from a growing spectrum of stakeholders.
We are concerned that the time currently allocated to the agenda item pertaining to the two-year rule (less than half a day on Friday 24 March) will be insufficient to allow for the multilateral process to take effect, and reflects a disconnect between the agenda and the growing global concern around the accelerated push toward mining the deep. The conclusion of the BBNJ Agreement on marine biodiversity is very significant for the ISA. The international community has spoken: we cannot destroy marine biodiversity and must respect and preserve the common heritage of humankind. We therefore respectfully request that the appropriate adjustments are made to the Programme of Work, to allow at least one full day for the discussion.
While DSM is certainly a complex issue, it is grounded in a simple reality: deep-sea mining will destroy living ecosystems and marine biodiversity. It’s easy to lose sight of that when we’re sitting in a conference centre or an office day after day. I’m sure many of you have seen the excellent article by deep-sea biologist, Diva Amon, published in the New York Times this week. As you know, Dr. Amon is one of the few people involved in these discussions who’s witnessed the life of the deep with her own eyes, who’s been amongst it. And she describes something quite magical: a trove of biodiversity composed of strange and wonderful creatures: tentacled, luminous, ancient. We would do well to keep the images of these creatures in mind as we discuss the prospect of their destruction.
And all for what? The market is moving away from the metals found on the deep-sea floor. Electric vehicle manufacturers including Chinese manufacturer BYD and Tesla, for example, are already using a battery that contains no nickel or cobalt. Alongside these developments, recent studies show that through investment in the circular economy and recycling technologies, demand for these metals can be reduced by 58%. The narrative that deep-sea metals are needed for the energy transition is, therefore, debatable.
All this raises the question: is a radical new extractive industry delving into the deepest reaches of our world something that humankind as a whole can accept? The ever-growing resistance from scientists, civil society, youth, media, the European Parliament, the IUCN and States would suggest that the answer is “no”.