De Europese groene partijen hebben vandaag op hun congres in Liverpool een gemeenschappelijk standpunt goedgekeurd over de bescherming van de gebieden die niet onder de soevereiniteit van een staat vallen, maar van de gehele mensheid zijn.
Tot deze global commons behoren het grootste deel van de oceanen, Antarctica en de ruimte. Nu de jacht op natuurlijke hulpbronnen zich uitbreidt naar de oceaanbodem, de Maan en planetoïden, is het zaak om te voorkomen dat dit gemeenschappelijk bezit ten prooi valt aan overexploitatie en conflicten.
Bij de bescherming van de global commons willen de Europese Groenen uitgaan van een zestal principes:
Op basis van deze principes formuleren de Groenen strikte voorwaarden voor onder meer de visserij in internationale wateren, diepzeemijnbouw en ruimtemijnbouw. Antarctica moet blijven wat het nu is: het grootste ongerepte natuurgebied op aarde.
De door het congres van de Europese Groene Partij (EGP) aangenomen visie kwam tot stand op initiatief van de EGP-delegatie van GroenLinks en Bureau de Helling. De unaniem goedgekeurde tekst staat hieronder.
In their relentless quest for natural resources, states and companies are setting their eyes on places which do not fall under national sovereignty. These vast areas - the high seas, Antarctica and outer space - are part of the global commons. They belong to all of humanity. To ensure their sustainable and peaceful use, the international community needs to work together.
Greens want to avert a tragedy of the commons, whereby the collective resources of the high seas, Antarctica and space are lost as a result of misuse or overexploitation. We resist an enclosure of the commons, whereby these resources are monopolised by states or companies and benefit only a few. We do not want the quest for resources beyond national territories to become a new source of international conflicts. We want to take the lead in proposing solutions for the good governance of the global commons. Even at a time when international cooperation is hampered by the short-sighted, resentful nationalism of Putin, Trump and the like, there are political opportunities to make our voice heard.
The high seas cover nearly half of the Earth’s surface. Like the waters under national control, they suffer from warming and acidification as a result of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere. The increasing acidity threatens calcifying organisms, such as oysters, corals, plankton and shellfish that grow hard shells made of a chalky mineral called calcium carbonate, as well as the species that are dependent on them.
Our fossil throwaway economy also pollutes the oceans with various forms of waste, such as microplastics. These endanger the entire marine food chain, up to humans.
Overfishing adds a menace to oceanic ecosystems. As those fish stocks that are easiest to exploit are depleted, fishers move to ever-deeper waters. However, the species of the deep sea are extremely slow-growing and do not reach sexual maturity for many years, which makes them all the more vulnerable to overfishing and destructive practices such as bottom-trawling. Bottom trawling is currently the greatest human-induced threat to marine biodiversity. Bottom trawls, the use of which is now widespread, crush everything in their path, destroying fragile marine ecosystems such as reefs, seamounts, hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, rocky regions and sandbanks, while killing a large amount of unwanted marine life as bycatch.
The deep sea not only attracts fishers, but also miners. The growing demand for metals has revived the interest in the minerals on the ocean floor. The International Seabed Authority, which governs mining in the high seas, has already entered into 26 exploration contracts with mining companies and national governments, despite the fact that little is known about the ecological effects of deep-sea mining.
Antarctica, the largest pristine wilderness left on Earth, enjoys better legal protections against human interference. Even though the issue of (overlapping) territorial claims remains unresolved, the 1959 Antarctic Treaty prohibits military activities. The 1991 Madrid Protocol requires environmental impact assessments for all activities and prohibits mining until at least 2048.
However, Antarctica is vulnerable to global warming. Its glaciers are already thinning. If the Antarctic ice sheet melted completely, sea levels would rise by a catastrophic 60 meters.
In the Antarctic Ocean1, warming water, changing sea ice patterns and acidification threaten to disrupt the ecological balance. Krill, a key species that many animals, such as whales, feed on, is at risk from both climate change and a growing appetite for harvested krill in fish-farming.
The proliferation of human activities in outer space produces ever more space debris. Every collision with or between debris generates more debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions. A tragedy of the commons in the low Earth orbit is looming. This puts satellite use and space travel at risk.
Meanwhile, a growing number of companies are developing technology to mine the Moon and asteroids. The 2015 US Space Act allows American companies to extract, own and sell resources from celestial bodies. The US government has approved the first commercial lunar landing, planned for late 2017 by Moon Express. This company aims to explore for mineable metal ores and water.
Whereas some countries are eager to join the race for space resources, others argue that the appropriation of these resources is at odds with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The fault lines run through the EU. There is a clear potential for conflict over the cosmic commons.2
Greens consider the high seas, Antarctica and outer space to be part of the common heritage of mankind.3 The governance of these global commons should be inspired by the principles of non-appropriation, shared management, benefit-sharing, peaceful use only, and preservation for future generations. The living creatures and ecosystems of the global commons must be protected for their intrinsic value and not only because they serve mankind.4
The European Greens therefore demand the following:
1. The Antarctic Ocean is part of the Antarctic Area as defined by the Antarctic Treaty, which extends to the 60th parallel south.
3. This concept is incorporated in several international treaties, such as the 1979 Moon Treaty and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (with respect to the seabed of the high seas).
4. Since the common heritage of mankind concept has an anthropocentric bias, it needs to be supplemented with a tenet from ecologism: the moral considerability of non-human nature. The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity recognises the “intrinsic value of biological diversity” in its preamble.
5. The 1979 Moon Treaty has been ratified by only sixteen countries, three of which are EU members: Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. With its poor backing, the treaty is not considered to be part of international customary law.