I make this statement on behalf of the environmental organisations that have been in the room for the past two and a half weeks: AIDA, Environmental Justice Foundation, Greenpeace, Oceans North, Pew, WWF, The Ocean Foundation, and Sustainable Ocean Alliance. Collectively, we represent millions of people, and under the umbrella organisation of the Deep-Sea Conservation Coalition, we work together towards a shared goal: a moratorium on deep-sea mining. We note with gratitude the States defending our right to participate in this process and supporting the inclusion and recognition of indigenous people and their deep connection to the ocean. We also congratulate the Dominican Republic on their announcement this morning that they are joining the call for a precautionary pause.
As State representatives, you are tasked with making decisions on behalf of all humankind. On this day, the 31st March 2023, you have exactly 100 days until the ISA could receive an application from any sponsoring State to mine the deep. This is not about the LTC per se, it is about States fulfilling their duty to ensure that risk and uncertainty are minimised as much as possible. This is about implementing safeguards and acting as guardians for both our institutions and our planet. This can be achieved by a directive from the Council to its subsidiary organ, the LTC – not to undermine the LTC, but to support and guide it in the biggest decision the ISA has seen to date.
Although this week it’s proven difficult to reach agreement, one thing we believe we can agree on is that the ISA is a very different place today to what it was just one year ago. Deep-sea mining is no longer the obscure technical issue it once was: today there are political, ethical and philosophical choices to be made. Do we perpetuate an extractive paradigm to the detriment of other more sustainable pathways? Do we literally bulldoze ahead despite the fact that swathes of people from across the spectrum of society are saying “no”?
Biodiversity conservation is a major viable route to mitigating and reversing climate change. The ocean and the rich web of life it supports play a vital role in carbon cycling and provide much of the very oxygen we breathe. Without a healthy, functioning ocean we risk becoming the fish on the deck of the boat, gasping for air.
To finish, we’d like to stress that this debate goes beyond the two year loophole and we urge States to start looking beyond July and towards the more distant horizon. Just yesterday, the CEO of The Metals Company said (and I quote) “The ISA isn’t down there deciding whether this is going to happen or not, that is decided.” These misleading comments fail to account for the opinions of millions of private citizens and send a signal to a global market. There will be continued pressure to hastily adopt regulations. States should not be held to ransom by commercial interests. It is your responsibility to ensure you have the time and space required to make evidence-based decisions that will keep our oceans safe, and that will keep us safe.