As world leaders gather at the United Nations climate summit in Egypt this week, another international meeting is underway in Jamaica to decide the fate of the planet’s oceans.
The UN-affiliated International Seabed Authority is convening in Kingston to fast-track regulations that could allow the mining of fragile and biodiverse deep sea ecosystems for valuable metals as soon as 2024. But as the ISA Council, the organization’s policymaking body, concluded its first week of meetings on Friday, a growing number of countries were calling for a halt to the rush to enact mining regulations by July 2023, a deadline established last year.
Among the Council’s 36 member states, Germany, France, Spain, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Chile, Panama, Fiji and the Federated States of Micronesia last week demanded a “precautionary pause” or a moratorium on mining due to a lack of scientific data on the areas of the seabed targeted for exploitation. On Monday at COP27 in Egypt, French President Emmanuel Macron called for an outright ban on deep sea mining. Meanwhile, Brazil, the Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland and other Council members also indicated they would not approve any mining contracts until sufficient environmental protections for unique deep ocean ecosystems are in place, regardless of the July deadline.