Deep Sea Mining Isn’t a Viable Climate Solution

6 minute read
Whipps, Jr. is the 11th President of the Republic of Palau. President Whipps' steadfast advocacy for ocean conservation has earned him global recognition as a champion of environmental stewardship and a driving force in the fight against the urgent challenges facing our oceans. Fernandez founded Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) in her dorm room at Georgetown University when she was only 19 years old. Since 2014, she has helped create the world’s largest network of young ocean leaders, establishing a presence in 165 countries, and accelerating more than 270 solutions to heal, protect, and restore our ocean

On July 10, youth from around the world will gather at the International Seabed Authority meetings, as delegates cast a vote on environmental regulations that will either stop deep-sea mining in its tracks or allow it to move forward. Many ISA delegates are advocating for the mining regulations to be finalized so that mining can start immediately.

Deep-sea mining projects could be given the green flag to source minerals needed to support green technological innovation—at the cost of damaging portions of our ocean floor in ways that could kill marine life and negatively impact people who depend on the ocean for sustenance and economic prosperity.

The citizens of Palau and Sustainable Ocean Alliance continue to call for a moratorium on deep-sea mining and are grateful that many others around the world share our views. Among them, importantly, are our youth. The next generation, who will inherit this world and its problems, are the future scientists, entrepreneurs, and engineers who will discover new solutions, as well. But we have the unique opportunity to prevent a problem before it begins by halting deep-seabed mining practices until we can better understand the risks.

Read More: The Case Against Deep-Sea Mining

Young people have become a powerful force in the face of minimizing imminent environmental threats, driving transformative actions to combat the climate crisis, protecting biodiversity, and advocating for a more sustainable and equitable future. It is why, when Palau co-hosted the seventh Our Ocean Conference with the United States in April 2022, youth were invited to join the discussions with the hope that they would find options and solutions that our generation haven’t considered.

Youth advocates, in particular, see past the short-term and misguided solution of mining deep-sea minerals. From the recent oil spill in the Philippines, to billions of Alaskan Sea Crab disappearing from the Bering Sea, to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is traversing the globe, experts and young people have worked to educate the public on how the ocean is our most critical ally in the fight against climate change, protecting the planet from future catastrophes. More than 90% of excess heat from global warming is absorbed by the ocean. Mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass meadows remove 10 times more carbon than the rainforest. We cannot afford to open up the ocean to potential destruction to which we do not yet understand the stakes. By disrupting the delicate balance of ocean life through deep-sea mining, we could reduce its ability to serve as a critical shield for our planet, putting us all at further risk.

While we cannot go back and undo many of the past climate mistakes, we have the chance to stop an environmentally harmful practice at the outset. Global leaders of today and tomorrow have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to listen to the voices of impacted communities and the young people who will inherit our future to prevent further degradation of our dire planetary situation. We cannot allow our policymakers to treat deep-sea mining with the same indifference shown to the climate crisis. We must uplift these young leaders’ call to ensure our politicians step up and do the right thing this time around.

Palau was the first country to call for the moratorium (or precautionary pause) of deep-sea mining until the impact of such a practice is better understood. (To date, 17 countries have called for a deep-sea mining moratorium or pause, including Germany, New Zealand, Spain, France, Sweden, and Fiji and the Federated States of Micronesia.) People in Palau are already seeing and living in the effects of a warming world—our coral reefs are bleaching and our prized stingless Golden Jellyfish are dying. Climate change has brought about more typhoons and extreme weather to Palau than most adults living in Palau today have seen in their youth. Farmlands that our people have used to grow taro, tapioca, coconuts, and bananas for hundreds of years are either regularly inundated during storms or baked by harsh droughts and then swept away by days of torrential rains. The impacts of digging into the ocean floor are uncertain and could cause irreparable harm to people who depend on the ocean for food and, we know today, enable further climate change.

We encourage all leaders, and in particular the remaining political leaders who have yet to announce a position on deep-seabed mining to listen to their young constituents, including those at Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) that led the handover of a global petition signed by more than 250,000 people across the globe calling for a moratorium. SOA’s network of youth leaders and regional representatives from the Caribbean, Latin America, and France continue to advocate for the prevention of opening international waters to this destructive mining practice and using youth voices to call for corporations to do the same.

And the movement is only gaining more ground with every passing day: Other youth-led organizations like Look Down Action aim to inspire communities to learn more about deep-sea mining’s potential negative impacts and take any action on proposing moratoriums around the world. Global companies like Google and Patagonia are also some of the first to support a deep-sea mining moratorium. The Metals Company (TMC), which would have been a key player in the deep-sea mining industry if it were approved, recently lost its biggest remaining investor, Maersk. This comes after Storebrand, a Norwegian private asset manager, divested from TMC and reaffirmed its commitment to halting and reversing biodiversity loss late last year. Not to mention, car manufacturers like BMW and Volvo are focusing their attention on finding new transportation solutions that do not rely on precious seabed minerals for battery production.

We are at a pivotal moment for the health of our ocean, and by extension, our planet. This is not going to be the last time our generation (or the next) is asked to choose between protecting our planet and taking the path of least resistance. We have a chance today to set a new precedent—for global politicians and business leaders alike—that we will no longer allow destruction for the sake of profit or progress. We cannot afford the alternative.

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