The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is set to decide the fate of the world's oceans behind closed doors by fast-tracking regulations for the launch of the deep-sea mining industry by July 2023 at a meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, from July 18-29.
So asserts Greenpeace, environment advocate, which is already protesting. In notes sent to the Jamaica Observer, the agency stated, "Civil society and frontline communities are protesting this destructive industry, which threatens one of the world's largest carbon sinks as well as the lives and livelihoods of billions of people living in coastal communities. Greenpeace is calling on the car companies — the supposed customers of this industry — to support a moratorium."
Greenpeace noted, "The ISA is charged with protecting the oceans as the 'common heritage of mankind'. However, it is now trying to open a vast new frontier of the global ocean commons to large-scale industrial resource extraction and has implemented severe restrictions on the participation of civil society that diminishes our engagement in one of the most critical discussions about the future of our oceans."
The agency said that on July 14 in Kingston it will launch its campaign, to include Greenpeace campaigners, representatives from the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, Pacific people from frontline communities, and Jamaican environmental activists.
Since the start of 2022, the ISA told the Observer that to public perceptions that there is a lack of consensus on deep-sea mining says that the whole discussion is based on several misunderstandings.
The ISA, comprising 167 member states plus the European Union, is charged with ensuring the protection of life in the deep from any proposed mining activities.
ISA told the Business Observer that, following the meeting with member nations over deep-sea mining in March 2022, much of what has been publicly said is factually inaccurate and misleading.
ISA stated, "Deep-seabed mining has not started and will not start until the necessary regulatory framework is adopted by the 168 members of ISA."
Regulations permitting mining have been passed, but those technical rules relating to exploitation are yet to be worked out, it is outlined. Once consensus has been reached on these details, the regulations will be formally adopted.
ISA denied that there is any deep-sea mining now occurring, and states, "Deep-sea mining in the international seabed area cannot [have] been undermining the health of the ocean and mining activities cannot be 'suspended all together'," as they have not started.
ISA told the Business Observer, "The core mandate of ISA under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is to regulate exploration and mineral-related activities in the international seabed area (also called the 'Area') and it is entrusted by its member states to take the necessary measures to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment."
In addition to stringent regulations, this includes advancing marine scientific research, capacity development for nationals of developing states which are members of ISA and incorporating the best scientific evidence and applicable standards for the protection and preservation of the marine environment for the benefit of humankind.
ISA further notes that regulations governing exploration of the international seabed Area have been adopted already.
The body explained, "The challenge now is to make the transition to exploitation, through transparent deliberations with members and other relevant stakeholders, which must reflect best international standards and practices as well as agreed principles of sustain.
ISA has been working on regulations for the exploitation of deep-seabed minerals since 2014. The regulations will be formally adopted once all 168 members reach consensus on its content.
As to the claim by Greenpeace that the workings of ISA's technical and decision-making bodies is shrouded in mystery, ISA stated, "ISA is committed to ensuring transparency in pursuit of this goal and that is why all public meetings are streamed live over the Internet in our six official languages. As of today, ISA has granted observer status to 94 entities including 34 non-governmental organisations. Similarly, to ensure transparency and enable media and thus the public through the media in its role to educate and inform, to understand to true nature of its activities, ISA."
On July 14 Greenpeace said it will "examine the environmental threats posed by deep-sea mining and discuss their concerns about the ISA's transparency, accountability, and inclusivity practices."
The agency noted, "We will also preview our Race to the Top web application that ranks eight leading electric vehicle makers on their commitment to protecting our ocean by supporting a moratorium and keeping deep-sea minerals out of their supply chains."
Greenpeace stated, "The ISA and prospective mining companies have said that deep sea mining offers a 'greener, more socially just' alternative to land-based mining, but scientists have warned that launching this destructive new industry would put the health of the ocean on which we all depend and the lives and livelihoods of millions of coastal peoples at risk."
The environment advocate said that calls for a moratorium have grown as more countries, civil society, scientists, automobile and technology companies, financial institutions, and the fishing industry have stated that it is just not worth the risk.
Greenpeace says it has the support of technology and electric vehicle industry heavyweights for a moratorium on deep-sea mining, including Rivian, Renault, BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo Group, Scandia, Google, and Samsung SDI.
The agency siad, "We are calling on US automakers Ford, GM, and Tesla to come forward and take a stand to protect our oceans."