Spotlighting Just Transitions and the potential Impacts on the Depths of Our Ocean

MEDIA RELEASE: 14 February 2024

The Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) cautions the Green/Just transition processes, as it could have serious environmental impacts.

In a recent two-part webinar series discussing in-depth the reality of transitioning from high carbon activities to a green economy, PANG intern Jason Titifanue (University of Melbourne PhD Candidate) explains how the just/green transition is causing a scramble for mineral resources among developed economies and the narrative for more mining.

Originating in the 1970’s and 1980’s, just/green transitions were meant to help protect US carbon-based workers, their community and leave no one behind during the transition to more climate friendly practices.

There is a fundamental paradigm shift from economies based on fossil fuels to economies that are based on low carbon systems, and which promote and protect a circular economy and biodiversity. This will mean moving away from fossil fuel energy towards renewable energy while at the same time ensuring that minimal harms are caused environmentally, socially, and economically.

Titifanue says there must be caution as narratives for the need of a green/just transition are being appropriated by the mining industry to encourage deep sea mining, thus posing potential risks on our ocean. He states “A just transition sounds really lovely, it aims to ensure that as the world transitions to low carbon systems that this be done in a way that is equitable and leaves no one behind, however, what is happening is that this narrative is slowly being appropriated to promote a new global scramble for resources.”

He argues that developed economies and corporations are building so called environmentally friendly technologies to reduce carbon emissions, so they are appropriating the green/just transition narrative to promote Deep Sea Mining.

For instance, The Metals Company argues that “the biggest threat to the ocean is climate change. We believe the top priority for the entire planet, including the ocean, should be achieving net-zero emissions”. The company further argues that “peer- reviewed research shows that sourcing the metals needed for the transition to clean energy from high-grade polymetallic nodules can reduce the associated climate impacts by between 70 – 80% compared to land-based”.

“Research shows that there are still so many uncertainties about the realities, we still don’t know enough about life on the seabed and how these activities would impact on them,” says Titifanue.

Whilst Pacific communities are already dealing with the adverse effects of the climate crisis, such as rising sea levels, landslides, floods and droughts, efforts to build green infrastructures and technologies should not come at the cost of mining the ocean floor.

PANG Deputy Coordinator, Joey Tau says “we must not forget the vital ecosystem services that our ocean provides, such as capturing, sequestration and safe storage for carbon-dioxide and methane.”

Scientists say the risks of seabed mining runs the risk of disturbing stable seabed structures that have, so far, remained safe carbon and methane sinks.

“Seabed minerals or what mining corporations are labelling as critical minerals are neither the absolute alternative to fossil fuel, nor the silver bullet to climate change. Insisting on either or both of these claims is nothing short of greenwashing yet another prospective experimental extractive industry,” said Tau.

The full two-day webinars can be found on the Pacific Network on Globalizations official YouTube Channel.

For Media Interviews:

Jason Titifanue

University of Melbourne PhD Candidate Pacific Network on Globalisation Research Intern