2 mrt 2017

Hoe beschermen we de oceanen, Antarctica en de ruimte?

Geef je mening over de ‘global commons’

Op initiatief van GroenLinks werken de Europese groene partijen aan een gezamenlijk standpunt over het beheer van de oceanen, Antarctica en de ruimte. Suggesties zijn welkom!


De jacht op natuurlijke hulpbronnen breidt zich uit naar gebieden die niet tot een staat behoren, maar van de gehele mensheid zijn. Deze gebieden – het grootste deel van de oceanen, alsmede Antarctica en de ruimte - maken deel uit van de global commons, het mondiale gemeengoed. Hoe zorgen we ervoor dat dit gemeenschappelijk bezit niet ten prooi valt aan overexploitatie en conflicten? Welke internationale afspraken moeten er gemaakt worden over bijvoorbeeld de winning van grondstoffen op de oceaanbodem en op planetoïden? Daarover zullen de Europese Groenen debatteren op hun congres in Liverpool.

Hieronder staat een tekst die GroenLinks samen met haar Duitse, Vlaamse en Poolse zusterpartijen heeft geagendeerd voor het congres van de Europese Groene Partij (EGP). Deze ontwerpresolutie is een initiatief van de EGP-delegatie van GroenLinks en Bureau de Helling.

Tijdens het EGP-congres, van 30 maart tot en met 2 april in Liverpool, zullen vertegenwoordigers van de 37 aangesloten partijen debatteren over de ontwerpresolutie, aanpassingen voorstellen, compromissen zoeken en daarover stemmen. Zo komen de Europese Groenen tot een gedeeld standpunt over de bescherming van de global commons en kunnen zij zich daar effectiever sterk voor maken in Brussel en in de nationale parlementen.

Op- en aanmerkingen bij de ontwerpresolutie zijn van harte welkom. U kunt ze hieronder in het reactieveld zetten. We zullen deze suggesties meenemen naar Liverpool.


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.

Man-made threats

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 coral and some plankton, 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 very slow-growing and therefore all the more vulnerable to overfishing and destructive practices such as bottom-trawling.

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.2 There is a clear potential for conflict over the cosmic commons.

Green solutions

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 not only be protected because they serve mankind, but also because they have intrinsic value.4

The European Greens therefore demand the following:

  • Protecting the high seas and Antarctica requires first and foremost that the international community limits climate change. We call on the EU and its Member States to take a leading role. We emphasise the need to cut soot emissions, since these unburned carbon particles accelerate ice and snow melt worldwide.
  • The ongoing UN negotiations on a high seas marine biodiversity treaty need to deliver a strong framework for the protection of ecosystems in international waters. At least 30 percent of the oceans must become marine protected areas. These MPAs have to be off-limits for fishing and mining. The treaty must provide for benefit-sharing for marine genetic resources and mandatory environmental impact assessments outside MPAs. We call on the EU and its Member States to use the June 2017 UN Ocean Conference to give impetus to the negotiation process, as well as to work towards the elimination of plastic waste and towards the other targets that come under Sustainable Development Goal 14 for life below water.
  • The waters around the North Pole – including the international waters of the Arctic donut hole – must become one of the first MPAs. We see the 2016 agreement between the US and Canada to ban oil and gas drilling in their Arctic waters as a welcome step towards a permanent sanctuary around the North Pole.
  • Regional fishing management organisations need to cover all the high seas and be strengthened to ensure that all fish stocks are above levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yields. We call on the EU to globally promote its ban on deep-sea fishing outside areas where it has occurred in the past, and to prohibit bottom-trawling.
  • The International Seabed Authority (ISA) needs to improve the draft environmental regulations for deep-sea mining that were published in 2016. We call on the EU and its Member States to make sure that the ISA fully respects the precautionary principle. No mining in the seabed may occur before the potential ecological impacts have been fully examined, in order to minimise damage to ecosystems. The promise of benefit-sharing among all ISA member states must be kept.
  • Since mining on land vs. mining in the seabed presents us with a choice between the devil and the deep sea, the push for a circular economy has to be reinforced. The EU should be a front-runner.
  • We call for the withdrawal of territorial claims on Antarctica, so as to definitively establish it as a global commons. Any impacts of human activities, such as tourism, must be minimised.
  • We welcome the decision of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in 2016 to establish the largest MPA so far in the Ross Sea. We urge the European Commission and the eight EU states who are members of the CCAMLR to work towards the establishment of additional MPAs.
  • In outer space, space-faring countries and companies must respect the space debris mitigation guidelines of the UN Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). We want these guidelines to become legally binding. We call on the EU, the European Space Agency and their member states to lead the way in addressing the challenge of active debris removal.
  • In the run-up to the next session of the legal subcommittee of COPUOS in April 2017, which will discuss space mining, EU governments must overcome their differences and jointly promote international rules for space mining. These rules should be inspired by the principles of the Moon Treaty5, including benefit-sharing. We insist that space mining is no excuse for continuing the overconsumption of earthly resources. The mining of minerals in space should primarily facilitate the further exploration of space.
  • We demand that the ban on weapons of mass destruction in space, as per the Outer Space Treaty, be extended to all weapons.



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.

Jurist. Internationaal secretaris van GroenLinks.
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Medewerker van Bureau de Helling.
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Goede, gebalanceerde visie. Fijn om te zien dat GroenLinks over de dijken heen kijkt en toekomst-gericht bezig is.

Op het punt van mijnbouw in de oceanen zou het standpunt nog wat scherper kunnen: eerst voldoende zeereservaten, dan pas beginnen aan diepzeemijnbouw. Ik vond de positie die Greenpeace een paar dagen geleden innam in het Financieele Dagblad wel goed:
"Greenpeace pleit voor een verbod op alle vormen van diepzeemijnbouw, 'zolang alle zeehabitats, biodiversiteit en ecosysteemfuncties niet goed beschermd zijn'[...]. 'Dit houdt onder meer in dat er een wereldwijd netwerk van zeereservaten ingesteld moet zijn. Dat netwerk moet 40% van de oceanen beslaan en er mogen geen schadelijke activiteiten plaatsvinden. Als de bescherming in orde is, dan is de zeenatuur weerbaar genoeg om op sommige plekken buiten de beschermde gebieden mijnbouw toe te staan.'


My reaction is only about the territory of outer space, as that is my expertise as Space Industry Consultant.
Although I agree to your proposals, they lack in a practical way on how to implement jurisdiction in cases that would go against your proposals.

For example, when two (operational) satellites would crash into eachother in Low-Earth Orbit and would produce a cloud of debris, who would be responsible for this cloud, and its potential devastating effects on other satellites at similar altitudes?
In the end, it will be impossible to prove that a third satellite was actually hit by a particle from this cloud, or just by a naturally occurring meteoroid.
Europe is way ahead in proposing guidelines, and other international companies are also taking their responsibility in space. But there still numerous countries and companies not doing their best enough to minimize the problem.
This can already be done by satellite design, but this is always at a cost, which threatens the market position of a satellite owner.
In my opinion, an (independent) UNOOSA/UNCOPUOS review team should have the mandate to prohibit a launch, where hardware is on board deemed not sufficiently taking into account orbital debris mitigation. But for sure, no UNOOSA/UNCOPUOS reviewer will get very near the hardware for a launch with the latest US NRO satellite, or similar Russian or Chinese systems....

As to the asteroid mining discussion, it is a good time to set-up international agreements. Preferably inline with the Moon treaty but that is a hard route.
I have not yet completely made up my mind yet on the full scope. On the one hand, I think the amount of asteroidal materials is so unimaginably large that it would only be headache to why humanity could not mine a trillionth of a percent of the available asteroid mass.
Also, in the near term (within the next 30-50 years, if not never) it will not be economically wise to bring asteroidal material back to Earth. So indeed, it should certainly only be used to create a new Space based economy. Used for humanity to live and to explore in the Universe.
On the other side, what I would really find a step back is that only a few companies will become filthy rich from asteroid mining whilst the rest of humanity does not benefit from the value.
A similar thing happened in the golden age, where a few elites in the VOC became enormously rich whilst the people doing the real work suffered on ships and land far away from home. But in a sense, that is what is also happening on Earth nowadays, only the group who profit is larger than in the past. Hope it will include everyone on Planet Earth, when the riches of asteroids are unlocked in the next decades.

It is important to know what biodiversity is found in potential marine protected areas (MPA’s) and what biodiversity is found in non-MPA’s. Otherwise we do not know what we lose or need to protect. I would appreciate a statement of the Greens to explore biodiversity. Otherwise laws may be made in the future with no/little scientific basis (and thus missing the goal to protect). We have to know which 30% should be protected.

In the context of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the International Seabed Authority (ISA) must ensure effective protection of the marine environment on behalf of humankind. In the international legal context this includes that “serious harm” must be avoided during deep-sea mining. However, the definition of “serious harm” is challenging in deep ecosystems, where lack of knowledge is the rule rather than the exception.

So it is important that “serious harm” is identified. For this we have to explore diversity/function and consequences of disturbances.

I totally agree that a circular economy is of the utmost importance. From my perspective, the sentence could be rewritten – highlighting metal recycling as a way to limit damage caused by mining. (For me, “devil versus deep sea” sounds a bit rough and the good message is lost.)

Greenpeace suggereert de volgende aanvullingen (in kapitalen):

• Protecting the high seas and Antarctica requires first and foremost that the international community limits THE CUMULATIVE IMPACT of climate change AND OTHER HUMAN ACTIVITES, INCLUDING FISHING, MINING, AND SHIPPING, ON MARINE BIODIVERSITY. We call on the EU and its Member States to take a leading role. We emphasise the need to cut soot emissions, since these unburned carbon particles accelerate ice and snow melt worldwide.


• The ongoing UN negotiations on a high seas marine biodiversity treaty need to deliver a strong framework for the protection of BIODIVERSITY in WATERS BEYOND NATIONAL JURISDICTION. At least 30 percent of the oceans must BE PROTECTED BY 2030 THROUGH A REPRESENTATIVE NETWORK OF MARINE RESERVES OFF-LIMITS TO EXTRACTIVE AND DAMAGING HUMAN ACTIVITIES. TO MEET THIS TARGET, the treaty must provide for A PROCESS TO CREATE AND MANGE SUCH AREAS. THE TREATY MUST ALSO SET UP MECHANISM FOR THE CUMULATIVE IMPACT ASSESSMENT OF HUMAN ACTIVITIES AND CLIMATE CHANGE AND FOR benefit-sharing for marine genetic resources. We call on the EU and its Member States to use the June 2017 UN Ocean Conference to give impetus to the negotiation process and ENSURE THAT THE BBNJ PREPARATORY PROCESS CONCLUDES WITHIN THE TIMELINE ESTABLISHED BY THE UNGA, as well as to work towards the elimination of plastic waste and towards the other targets that come under Sustainable Development Goal 14 for life below water.

Een geamendeerde tekst leek mij het eenvoudigste, al kan ik mijn
amendementen langs deze weg helaas niet (b.v. vet gedrukt) markeren!

1. In their relentless quest for natural resources
2. humanity is setting its eyes on
3. places which do not fall under political
4. sovereignty. These vast areas - the high seas,
5. Antarctica and outer space - are part of the
6. global commons. They belong to all
7. life. To ensure them a sustainable and
8. peaceful human stewardship, the international community
9. needs to work together.

19. Greens want to take the
20. lead in proposing solutions for the good
stewardship of the global commons.

Regel 10 t/m 19 (deels) heb ik weggelaten, omdat de enclosures, niet de commons op historische gronden betreurd worden (Hans Achterhuis, o.a.)

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