Environment working group
Bula Madam facilitator and delegates,
Firstly, Madam Facilitator, we are very happy to see you back in the facilitation role.
This is a very important working group and we look forward to the discussion
Madam Facilitator, delegations would have seen that there a growing number of civil society observers here, including some indigenous representatives from the Pacific area who have journeyed great distances. We were hoping there would be an opportunity for them to address this working group. We are talking about stakeholder participation and they would have left by Monday. It would only take perhaps 10 minutes. I think delegates will find their participation helpful.
But if that is not possible, we have a suggestion to see if it gains your approval, and that would be after the session is closed at 1 oclock, the indigenous representatives be able to speak for perhaps 10 minutes, should delegates who are able to stay here for that segment. We hope that the interpreters will indulge us.
Delivered by – Hinano Murphy
Thank you Madam Facilitator, Im speaking on behalf of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.
Kia Orana, I am Teurumereariki a Teavai Murphy from French Polynesia (…) I am hear today to represent the thousands of voices to ban mining exploitation in the high seas. This includes the voice of 33 different countries and 56 different indigenous groups.
For millennia our people have lived in a relationship with the natural world that is defined by respect, gratitude, responsibility, and love. Our genealogies, woven across space and time, connect us physically and spiritually to animals and plants from the highest mountains to the deepest ocean.
Cultures across the Pacific consider the ocean to be sacred space for creation, a provider, an ancestor, and a link to places and people across the horizon. We would no more harm the ocean than we would a member of our family. And as with our family, we depend on each other for survival.
Western culture’s relationship with natural ecosystems of land, and sea and sky have proven to be deeply harmful for the only place we know as home, planet Earth. The ocean’s health, people, and natural ecosystems are already reeling from pollution, overfishing, acidification and extreme weather events. These problems need serious attention.
With a ban on deep-sea mining, however, we see the chance to stop the needless damage before it starts. There is ample evidence that deep-sea mining will cause irreversible harm to our ocean. The arguments in favor of deep-sea mining, produced only by those that stand to profit from it, have been shown to be false. There is no reason to disturb the tranquil and life-supporting depths of our oceans, causing harm that will last forever, for the short-term economic gain of a very few.
We refuse to allow any further harm to our sacred ocean. We refuse to further damage the intricate web of life that we are part of and depend on for our survival. We refuse to allow governments and corporations to sell out the future of our children and life on our planet.
We call on the governments of the world and on the International Seabed Authority to enact a ban on deep-sea mining effective immediately. Our ocean and our lives depend on it.
We speak on behalf of DSCC and WWF on this part of the intervention on the stakeholder consultation.
We welcome the initiative of the informal group discussing Standardization of Stakeholder consultation, and, as Stakeholders ourselves, we would be glad to be involved in such discussions in the future in order to support this important effort.
We would like to take this opportunity to ask that States take this one step further and provide not only for consultation but also public participation which goes further than consultation. For example, in any environmental impact assessment, stakeholders should have the opportunity to introduce independent scientific advice and advisers to contribute to the EIA process. When we are contributing here in Council, this is public participation, not consultation.
It is worthwhile noting that the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters rests on three pillars: access to information, public participation, and access to justice. All three go hand in hand: the information pillar to ensure that the public can participate in an informed fashion, and the access to justice pillar to ensure that participation happens in reality and not just on paper. It can be traced back to Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration.
Public participation also entails access to relevant documents, the ability to speak, to circulate written documents, including reasonable timeframes to participate effectively. In brief, it involves effective notice, adequate information, proper procedures, and appropriately taking account of the outcome of the public participation.
It is far more than just commenting, and, under Article 6 para. 7 of the Aarhus Convention, requires allowing the public to submit, in writing or, as appropriate, at a public hearing or inquiry with the applicant, any comments, information, analyses or opinions that it considers relevant to the proposed activity.
So in the context of the ISA, this means not just commenting on documents on a website, but meaningfully participating in the Legal and Technical Commission, the Council or any other body.
Regarding the identification of Stakeholders to be directly notified of participatory processes, firstly we urge the systemic involvement of independent scientists, indigenous people, coastal communities, youth, and environmental groups. We agree it would be useful to have a list of types of Stakeholders that should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis, with contact information. We suggest that Stakeholders themselves should be invited to contribute to these lists.
In order to ensure that this is not left as ‘Guidance’ alone, we would urge a definition of ‘key Stakeholders’ in the regulations, but one that remains sufficiently broad to allow for the rapidly growing and evolving interest in the common heritage of humankind.
Vinaka Madam Facilitator
This intervention by DSCC is also on behalf of WWF, Oceans North and TBA 21.
I think our objections are quite specific.
Consistent with your comment at the outset, and as highlighted by Germany and the Netherlands, it is highly relevant that the BBNJ Agreement on marine biodiversity has been concluded. Finally, a framework and mandate on the conservation of marine biodiversity – an issue of core relevance and importance to all of us – has been agreed by consensus of all States.
Its authoritative Principles and Approaches should be followed by the ISA parties, most of whom we presume will be party to the BBNJ Agreement, including in para 1(a)(i) the Precautionary principle: We thank the Netherlands for drawing our attention to the BBNJ language which includes “as appropriate” and would suggest that with so much uncertainty, the precautionary principle, rather than approach, certainly is appropriate here.
We also highlight an approach that builds ecosystem resilience, including to adverse effects of climate change and ocean acidification, and also maintains and restores ecosystem integrity, including the carbon cycling services that underpin the ocean’s role in climate; the use of the best available science and scientific information; an integrated approach to ocean management; and the use of relevant traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
Para 1(a)(iii) lacks a reference to independent and peer reviewed science as well as traditional knowledge. The best available science will not be obtained if stakeholders do not have the opportunity to bring forward independent scientific information.
In Para 1(a)(v) our indigenous colleagues remind us of the importance of underwater cultural environment, as so eloquently expressed by the kupuna (or native Hawaiian elder) this morning.
Paragraph (b) has no reference to ensuring no loss of biodiversity.
With respect to Paragraph (c ) we note that mitigation is not sufficient; Article 145 requires that effective protection for the marine environment from harmful effects is ensured. Merely mitigating harm is not enough, moreover, mitigation, which is noted by many scientists as not being adequate or even meaningful, would require substantial understanding of the extent of the harm, including a baseline, which we do not have.
Paragraph (c)should not include reference to restoration and offset. We support DOSI’s comments and those of the United States in this regard.
In all of DR 44 there is no reference to cumulative impacts, including the impacts of climate change and noise, and the need to prevent environmental damage not only in areas directly impacted but in all affected areas.
Following international commitments such as the global biodiversity framework, there must be an imperative to “Ensure there is no loss of biodiversity, damage to the flora and fauna of the marine environment, or degradation of ecosystems and ecosystem services.”
This is key to implementing Arts 145 and 194(5) and to ensuring consistency with the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 14, Target 2, as well as protecting biodiversity in the face of the growing biodiversity crisis.
We deliver this intervention on behalf of both the DSCC, oceans North and WWF.
Regarding the chapeau of Para (1), we join Germany in their suggestion that the threshold of ‘serious harm’ to the marine environment is too high. Article 145 requires the prevention of damage to the flora and fauna. The obligation should therefore be ‘no harm’. Deep-sea mining cannot go ahead if we can’t guarantee that there will be no biodiversity loss. The recently concluded BBNJ Agreement (and I quote) “recognises the need to address, in a coherent and cooperative manner, biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems of the ocean”.
States cannot allow biodiversity loss to occur under ISA regulations when there is a recognized and overwhelming need to halt and reverse the phenomenon.
We suggest that the term “Compensation’ for harm to the marine environment should be deleted from para 1(c), as ‘Compensation’ is not featured in the mitigation hierarchy so should equally not feature here. The notion of compensation essentially provides that you can always pay your way out of obligations to protect the marine environment, thereby manifesting a permissive attitude toward environmental damage that cannot be accepted in the 21st century.
Collaboration with the BBNJ agreement needs to be provided for under BBNJ Article 23 paragraph 2, and the BBNJ Agreement in Part IV extensively addresses environmental impact assessments. These EIA procedures need to be completely revised to take into account and reflect the BBNJ provisions, which must be seen as best practice and enjoying widespread support.