France – Key statements

Date: 10 November 2022

March 2024

29/3/24

  • France raised concerns about past inaccuracies in ISA press releases. 
  • France believes there was no consensus on Nauru’s draft decision to limit protest at sea and that the issue should be taken up in July.

28/3/24

  • France stressed that the SG should continue efforts of cooperation, consultation and coordination with OSPAR to allow for better complementarity between the work of both organizations and contribute to effectively protect and preserve the marine environment.

27/3/24

  • France believes that REMPs should be in place before any plan of work. No request should be considered before then. REMPs should define environmental goals for the area. 
  • The delegation stated that REMPs should be legally binding.
  • France believes that test mining should occur before the submission of a plan of work, so that the results of test mining would represent what would happen during exploitation process and be used accordingly to evaluate environmental damage. 

26/3/24

  • France believes we should always keep the contractor liable for their activities. Even if the sponsorship has been removed, otherwise, it’s easy for them or the sponsoring state to simply evade their responsibilities and liabilities in the event of environmental damages.
  • On Reg 22 – Agrees with Costa Rica in that the methodology should be more transparent 
  • France highlighted the importance of a compensation fund to account for unforeseen damages. The delegation noted that the fund should only be a last resort and emphasized the need for environmental impact assessments and scientific research to better understand deep-sea ecosystems before mining.
  • France, like Costa Rica, the African Group, Germany, Belgium, among others, supports that no exploitation activities can begin until the fund is well funded. 

25/3/24

  • France seeks clarification on exploitation contracts, emphasizing that environmental impact studies must be completed in the exploration phase and before moving to exploitation.

22/3/24

  • France emphasized the need for a compliance committee. 
  • France expressed that Greenpeace’s protest in November 2023 was peaceful and that the right to protest is a fundamental freedom. 
  • The delegation noted that the ISA Council should not comment on the court decisions of countries and their jurisdictions. 

21/3/24

  • The French delegation called on the new Council President to consider the perspectives of both industrialized and developing nations when negotiating the draft mining code. 
  • France warned of mining companies’ potential to exploit loopholes in the new mining code.

20/3/24

  • The French delegation supports the principle of integrating environmental externalities into a payment system.

18/3/24

  • France believes that transparency is essential 
  • “Need to work on a text that is for the benefit of all of humankind.” 
  • “Informal meetings can be useful sometimes, but it’s too early. “
  • “The text gives us a readable and clear base to work on. But in terms of the working methodology, there are a number of provisions that allow for us to work either on open and vigorous debate or consensus, and these have not been kept.”
  • France trusts the President to listen to States so that we are able to full discuss this text, so as to move forward with a more unified and clear vision of the project.

November 2023

7/11/23

  • France believes that environmental performance assessment should be included within the Seabed Mining Register maintained by the ISA. 

1/11/23

  • Draft regulation 49: France would like to maintain the reference to harmful effects. 
  • France would like to retain marine litter and underwater noise in the definition of pollution. We would also like to add reference to light pollution

July 2023

28/7/23

  • France stated that they had changed their statement completely, noting the atmosphere change and that they had “heard a delegation directly, almost threateningly mentioned the issue of the responsibility and the onus of the eventual failure of this session.”
  • The delegation stated that they “gave up on suggesting a legal instrument and we requested simply that we have a debate or dialogue on an issue that seems to us to pertain to the interests of all of humankind, and not only of the 36 members of the Council. 
  • “We have considered that essential elements had to be debated with all the members of the assembly, because it’s a matter that is important for all of us. After all, we’re talking here about the common heritage of humankind. There is only one organisation in this world that has a mandate that covers managing a common heritage of humankind and to manage it to the benefit of all humankind, including developing states. We have made considerable concessions in order to allow this debate to occur. We regret we strongly regret that this debate cannot occur right now.”
  • We wish to salvage multilateralism. We are responsible for the common heritage of mankind. It is therefore a huge responsibility and we believe that this is not the time or the place to point our fingers and try to determine who would be responsible for a failure. Those who try to blame others sometimes are those who actually bear the responsibility”
  • The delegation also stated that:
    • This session was historic for France with the first participation of a minister at a meeting of the authority with the presence of Mr. Herve Belleville Minister of Oceans who came to present the position of friends but also to listen to hear the other delegations and their various positions. 
    • As the Minister has said, France faced with the collapse of marine biodiversity and the rise of the sea levels and the brutal increase in the temperature of the oceans, we should note that our responsibility is huge. 
    • We all understand the catastrophic effects of climate change. Particularly for the countries that are most exposed, particularly those with low lying coasts or fragile coasts and the island nations and faced with this situation.
    • The President of the French Republic Mr. Emmanuel Macron, reiterated his position against mining exploitation of the seabed yesterday, so very recently, during his official visit to Vanuatu 
    • France stated that we need to enlighten this process with more scientific research to better understand the marine ecosystems to be better able to assess the impact of human activity. 
    • And finally, we believe in the strength of multilateralism, which implies the respect of the rights of the states.  
    • We also believe in our collective ability and our strength of conviction, to make the political choices to give the priority to the preservation of marine biodiversity, rather than to human activity in the seabed.

25/7/23

  • France supports adoption of an agenda item titled establishment of a general policy by the Assembly related to the conservation of the marine environment, including in consideration of the effects of the two year old, proposed by Chile, Costa Rica, France, Palau, and Vanuatu. France states Assembly countries must engage in discussions on these vital issues.
  • France reiterates France’s position against the exploitation of the deep seabed. “We cannot and must not launch ourselves into a new industry activity. While we are still not able to fully measure the consequences of that”.

24/7/23

  • France reiterates the importance of the inclusion of agenda item establishing a general policy by the Assembly related to the consultation of the marine environment under the two year rule, proposed by Chile, Costa Rica, France, Palau, and Vanuatu. States the Authority can only benefit from this discussion and Members of the Assembly should be able to share their opinions on this matter– it is important for multilateralism. 

19/7/23

  • France supported the DSCC with regards to the proposed 60 year length of deep-sea mining contracts, adding “60 years is a very long time given the scientific uncertainty we have today”. 

17/7/23

  • Concerning the supplementary budget for the Interim Director of the Enterprise, and another post, France raised concerns that the sum of over US$400,000 for the two posts seemed a bit excessive and queried where the funds were being allocated to with regards to work-related travel. 
  • France underscored that the objective of funds should be to prioritize capacity building for States, so as to allow them to participate in an active fashion, and the protection of the marine environment and the protection of the environment of the Area. 
  • Using funds for general education programmes, France questioned whether this would increase scientific knowledge, and there are NGOs who disseminate information around the marine environment and perhaps this is more appropriate.

13/7/23

  • Regarding the determination of likely environmental impacts, France consider that the impacts of deep-sea mining are certain, they are not likely or eventual. There will be an environmental impact from deep-sea mining and therefore France recommended the deletion of the word ‘likely’.
  • Support Germany’s comments regarding test mining and the need for test mining to be mandatory. 

12/7/23

  • Called for a wider range of species to be included in the consideration of impacts of deep-sea mining, not only endangered species.

March 2023

24/3/23

  • France agrees with the numerous states today that pronounced themselves in favor of a precautionary pause at a minimum,
  • As stated by Macron, the general uncertainty makes it too early to start with this activity without strong Rules, Regulations and Procedures. Thus we cannot approve a Plan of Work for exploitation and we must take all the time require to develop those rules. 
  • We support position of Netherlands in that section one paragraph 15 of the 1994 agreement cannot in any case, lead to the automatic approval of a plan of work for exploitation.
  • The LTC would not be able to make a formal recommendation in favor or not of Plan of Work.

22/3/23

  • Agrees with Canada and Germany that some requirements for environmental impact assessments should be binding.
  • Stated that: “It is stated for seafloor massive sulphide projects the modification of vent fluid discharges, if present should be addressed if this means that this draft regulation leaves the possibility open for a contractor to propose an exploitation on an active site without banning it, a priori. Our position is to consider that the active hydrothermal sites are vulnerable marine ecosystems and therefore, they should not be considered And we should not consider that the associated mineral resources with the systems which harbor specific biodiversity unique biodiversity, we consider that this exploitation is not possible”

21/3/23

  • Supported Spain and Micronesia on the the inclusion of marine litter and underwater noise stating “These are very important matters for our delegation, particularly underwater noise because it is pollution that has become more and more prominent and we’re learning more and more about the impact on mammals and ecosystems for example.”

October/November 2022

10/11/22

  • France reiterated President Macron’s call at COP27 for a ban on deep-sea mining.
  • “On 7 November 2022, at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, the President of the French Republic declared that France supports the banning of any deep seabed mining and that it would defend this position in the international forums. This strong and overt position has raised a lot of interest and many questions from our international partners, in particular within the forum of the International Seabed Authority.
  • France’s commitment is simply the reflection of the sentiment of urgency and major concern that we are all experiencing faced with the need to protect the ocean, and with it humanity. This commitment is evidently based on science, which reminds us of the essential role of the marine ecosystem in the stabilization of the climate and the protection of biodiversity. As the effects of climate change become increasingly threatening and the erosion of biodiversity continues to accelerate, today it does not seem reasonable to hastily launch a new project, that of deep seabed mining, the environmental impacts of which are not yet known and may be significant for such ancient ecosystems which have a very delicate equilibrium. This concern was already expressed by President Macron last June in Lisbon, on the side-lines of the United Nations Ocean Conference.
  • Currently, given the absence of scientific knowledge, we cannot today guarantee that mining mineral resources in the Area would not cause irreversible damage to the seabed and its biodiversity. That is why France, which has the second-largest exclusive economic zone, calls on its partners to make the same commitment to preserve this highly valuable marine ecosystem. Our precautionary principle must translate into tangible action, for the benefit of all humankind.
  • At the same time, exploration to improve our scientific knowledge of the deep seabed must not only continue, but grow, particularly in a framework of international cooperation among researchers around the world. The deep seabed must be what space was during the Cold War: a new frontier for cooperation and multilateralism.
  • In that respect, France wants to further contribute to this cause by continuing the training activities undertaken and by facilitating the dissemination of the data collected under exploration contracts. This is to make use of and share the information and scientific knowledge acquired in the interest of all.
  • Lastly, our position is aligned with France’s continued desire to address global matters that are of interest to all entirely transparently, proactively and in the framework of effective multilateralism.
  • From the outset, France has been and continues to be a fervent supporter of the Authority, the single mission of which has, to this day, enabled the common heritage of mankind that is the Area and its deep seabed to be protected. By issuing exploration contracts, the ISA has usefully contributed to the acquisition of fundamental knowledge to tackle these challenges.
  • When the ISA was created by the Montego Bay Convention, almost 30 years ago now, the challenges that we face today, the urgency of climate action and the collapse of biodiversity and its ecosystem services, were not the same, however. Our collective work must fully incorporate these challenges today. We must therefore allocate the time needed, which will be much more than initially envisaged, without any industrial or financial pressure, and without letting this work be guided by concerns other than those that are the fruit of knowledge and the need to protect marine ecosystems. As environmental imbalances challenge the living conditions of humankind, it would be dangerous to act with haste, endangering these ecosystems that could be sources of solutions and resilience in the future.
  • As of now, we are therefore joining all the States that are truly concerned by the protection of this common heritage that is the marine environment and its biodiversity, and who have recently expressed in various ways their concerns over deep seabed mining. In this forum, we are of course open to constructive dialogue with all of your governments and the ISA so that we can make inclusive progress on the knowledge of the seabed for the good of humankind”

4/11/22

  • France stated that they “support the countries that made an appeal for a precautionary pause absent of mining code, which means that no exploitation contract can be authorized by the authority as long as a legal framework sufficiently that protects the environment sufficiently will not be in place.”

3/11/22

  • Stated that “We are convinced that we need to ensure broad consultant consultation with all interested stakeholders on REMPs because we’re talking about the world the global environment and the common heritage of mankind. So we need to associate the non governmental organisations and society writ large as well as the scientific community.”

1/11/22

  • France stated “If we can’t do any reparations to the environmental damage in the in situ, where the damage occurred, we could act elsewhere. It’s a principle of compensation. If you cut down a tree here, you have to plant another tree, but you could plant it elsewhere from where you chop down the first tree.”

31/10/22

  • France stated “It’s all well and good to speak about geographic representation and gender parity but we also need to be practical and in certain professions, which is hard professions, rigs, inspections, there are a lot more men than women. So I believe we should not deprive us of competent people for gender considerations, but of course we all agree we should favour the participant of the participation of women in all issues pertaining to the Law of the Sea.”

July/August 2022

29/7/22

  • The delegation stated that it is “a little too soon to create EPC, conditions are not yet there.”

28/7/22

  • Commented “Forgive me but I am lost, which of the documents we are referring to? and later “I don’t understand why we aren’t using the most recent document with all the comments” amid confusion regarding which documents Council were working from.

27/7/22

  •  Stated confusion on what transparent communication should be and how this obligation would reside with the sponsoring state and not the ISA and that they struggled to see the added value of including sponsoring state in this process.

25/7/22

  • The French delegation stated that test mining should be conducted in an area that reflects the zone of future exploitation.
  • The delegation called for regulations to include marine litter and noise, hazards that are now better documented.
  • France called for more clarity on how independent auditors will be chosen by the ISA.

21/7/22

  • France considered that “It is extremely difficult to set thresholds due to lack of scientific knowledge and therefore we encourage a continuation of scientific research in order to be able to determine these thresholds as precisely as possible. In order in order to protect the environment as effectively as possible, we might suggest to add an indicator on pressure, for example, that leads to the destruction of habitats”
  • The delegation supported the inclusion of the “precautionary principle.” 

20/7/22

  • France began by stating that they were attached to the ISA’s mandate of “managing protecting and using the resources of the area which are a common heritage of humanity, as well as its action, which has allowed for the conservation of the seabed and regulating the access and banning any activity which will lead to destruction of ecosystems”.
  • They went on to add that “we are all aware that our organization needs to heed the alarm bells that were launched in Lisbon.”
  • They highlighted that “we need to maintain dialogue with civil society” and the “crucial importance that we give to the measures pertaining to environmental protection and to protecting biodiversity.” They added that “from this point of view the Lisbon UN Conference on oceans that happened in June makes us think that there is a before Lisbon after Lisbon.”
  • France stated that they the adoption of a strong legal framework “is a prior condition before we authorize any plan of work.”
  • The delegation added that they wanted to remind that “it it has never interpreted the rule of the two years in June 2021 for the adoption of the mining code between now and June 2023 as an obligation for the Council to approve temporarily and automatically any plan of work which would be presented before as soon as of July 2022. It does not seem to be acceptable to authorise a plan of work to put exploitation of the resources in the area without a legal framework solid at protecting the marine environment and ensuring a sustainable use of the resources to the benefit of humanity as a whole and by banning any project which would lead to irrevocable destruction of the marine environment.”

18/7/22

  • In spite of President Emmanuel Macron’s statement at UNOC, the call for a stop to mining in the high seas has clearly not filtered through to the French delegation at the ISA. 
  • France also stated that scientific information collected by contractors is useful. “We continue to encourage the Secretariat toward providing clear access to science information and data for the scientific community, this is what makes science move ahead. Most data is supplied by contractors themselves and is very useful.” This is troubling as rather than contractors marking their own work, impartial deep sea science is critical.
  • Along with Morocco, France opposed reinstating the live broadcasting of the meeting on UN Web TV. When Costa Rica asked for a vote, both countries backed down from this position.

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