The Labor party says the UK should support calls for a precautionary freeze on deep-sea mining, ahead of a key meeting of nations in Jamaica to decide the future of the industry. .
David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, said the Labor party was adding its voice to a growing list of countries and businesses urging that measures to start mining be halted “until and unless ” there is clear scientific evidence that it can be done safely and that the marine environment will be protected by the new regulations.
Last week, Ireland and Sweden became the latest developed economies to join scientists, environmental organizations, and multinationals including BMW, Volvo and Samsung, in opposing the rush of deep-sea mining.
Britain is one of 14 countries to sponsor exploration or research contracts – the only type allowed so far – to companies seeking deep-sea mining. The others are China, Russia, South Korea, India, France, Poland, Brazil, Japan, Jamaica, Belgium, Nauru, Tonga and Kiribati.
On Monday, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an autonomous organization under the umbrella of the United Nations of 168 member states charged with regulating deep sea mining, opened an important meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, to continue negotiations on exploitation.
It is possible that commercial applications for deep sea mining could get the green light even before any regulations are approved, due to a deadline that passed on Sunday 9 July.
In a speech at the Bingham Center for the Rule of Law in London, Lammy said Labor would restore the UK’s reputation as a country that respects and upholds international law, which he said had been undermined by the Conservatives, and lead the challenges of the future, including the climate crisis.
“Because the climate crisis can only be solved at the global level and today, as the International Seabed Authority meets to discuss deep-sea mining, Labor will join France, Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand, Spain, Chile, Ecuador, Vanuatu and Costa Rica, as well as businesses including BMW, Renault, Google, Samsung and Philips, to take action by calling for a precautionary stop to this practice until and unless there is a clear scientific evidence it can be safe and the marine environment can be effectively protected through the new regulation,” he said.
Lammy described the climate emergency as “the biggest challenge we face” and said Labor would take the lead in proposing new international legal frameworks to tackle the crisis.
He set out how, if the party wins the next election, a Labor government will keep its commitment to the international rule of law, push for climate action to become the UN’s fifth pillar – alongside peace, human rights , the rule of law and development – and work with international partners in the international criminal court to agree on a new global law on ecocide.
Greenpeace, which has long called for an end to deep-sea mining, welcomed Labour’s stance as a “welcome step towards stopping this industry”.
Ariana Densham, head of oceans at Greenpeace UK, said: “Labour’s commitment to a precautionary moratorium on deep-sea mining is a great step towards stopping this industry from starting. They join a movement of countries, scientists and businesses that say no, because of the inherent risks that the deep-sea mining industry poses to the ocean environment.
“By announcing it on the first day of the ISA meeting in Jamaica, Labour’s commitment reveals how the UK government’s position is out of line with science and its own long-standing promise to protect the oceans,” said he. “The UK government should take note and follow Labour’s lead to confirm support for a ban or moratorium during the critical global negotiations over the next two weeks.”
The UK is currently only pushing for high environmental standards through the ISA and has said it will not support commercial mining “unless and until” there are enforceable regulations and sufficient scientific evidence to judge the impact on marine ecosystems.
A spokesman for the government said: “We recognize the increasing pressure to extract resources in the deep sea and are concerned about the potential impacts of mining activities on the fragile marine environment.
“It is for this reason that the UK will maintain a cautious and conditional position of not sponsoring or supporting the issuing of any exploitation licenses for deep sea mining projects unless and until there is sufficient scientific evidence about the potential impact on deep-sea ecosystems, and strong. enforceable environmental regulations, standards and guidelines have been developed by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and are in place.”