Speech by Steffi Lemke "The Deep Nature of the Sea – an Umbrella Partnership for the Protection of the Deep Sea"

Bundesministerin Steffi Lemke
Federal Minister Steffi Lemke gave a speech at the UN Biodiversity Conference on the subject: "The Deep Nature of the Sea – an Umbrella Partnership for the Protection of the Deep Sea".

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Ambassador Poivre d’Arvor,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our seas and oceans are under extreme pressure. On top of the present geopolitical challenges arising from Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, we are faced with three existential crises that are mutually reinforcing: the climate crisis, the rapidly progressing biodiversity loss and rising pollution. All three crises threaten human life on this planet and jeopardise marine biodiversity.

In spite of this distressing state of affairs, I do believe that developments over the past months give us grounds for hope on marine conservation.

Alongside many ocean conferences, the Climate Change Conference, COP 27, hosted by Egypt a few weeks ago, underlined the importance of the world’s oceans like never before. COP 27 sent a clear message that the international community is addressing these environmental crises together and will seek joint solutions. We must protect nature so that nature can protect us. That is true for the oceans as well.

Regarding the deep ocean, we are at an extremely crucial point in policy making. Rising raw material prices and growing demand are drawing increasing attention to the extraction of resources from the untouched seafloor. As you are aware, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) may receive the first applications for commercial deep-sea mining projects as early as summer next year. Science tells us the risks are high. It is up to us as ISA member states to take all necessary measures to prevent humanity from putting yet another large-scale pressure on these natural systems, which we do not even fully understand yet.

At the recent ISA Council meeting in Kingston, Germany therefore announced that we will not sponsor any plans of work for exploitation until the deep-sea ecosystems and the impacts of deep-sea mining have been sufficiently researched. And until it can be ensured that the marine environment will not be seriously harmed. We call on all States to join us in taking a "precautionary pause".

Several states have expressed similar approaches, some of which are represented here on this panel. We should regard ourselves as allies for the protection of the deep sea. Our joint goal should be to invest in deep-sea scientific research, to fill the data and knowledge gaps before taking any rash decisions.

We are conscious that the pressures remain high. We believe that – as a safety net – we must make every effort to establish a robust and ambitious regulatory regime. Therefore, Germany intends to continue its strong engagement in the negotiation of the mining code in the coming months and beyond.

At the same time, we should urgently prepare for a scenario where ISA is not ready to adopt exploitation regulations after the two-year-period (the so-called "what-if scenario"). Ideally, this situation will not arise. However, it is my firm view that ISA must avoid "sleepwalking" into an age of deep-sea mining. There are many open questions that need to be answered in implementing the relevant provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and I would like to invite you all to get involved in discussing these issues as soon as possible.

The challenges are enormous – but we are hopeful, as we also recognise the great potential of multilateralism and the strength of international partnerships. Germany stands ready to be part of such partnerships and to closely cooperate with you.

Thank you!

16.12.2022 | Speech Marine Conservation

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