The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed in Madrid on October 4, 1991 and entered into force in 1998. It designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” and sets forth basic principles applicable to human activities in Antarctica and prohibits all activities relating to Antarctic mineral resources, except for scientific research. Until 2048 the Protocol can only be modified by unanimous agreement of all Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty. In addition, the prohibition on mineral resource activities cannot be removed unless a binding legal regime on Antarctic mineral resource activities is in force. The Protocol was signed by 31 countries, but today there are 38 countries committed to protecting Antarctica.
Listen to Camilla Nichol, UKAHT's Chief Executive as she explains why the Protocol is important to her.
Today is a landmark occasion marking the success of continued corroboration between 38 countries. Representatives from each country attend annual meetings of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP), which advises the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting on Antarctic environmental issues. The Committee for Environmental Protection brings together scientists, environmental managers and policy-makers from Governments; inter-Governmental bodies; and expert non-Governmental organisations. The CEP acts as an expert advisory body to provide advice and formulate recommendations to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in connection with the implementation of the Environment Protocol. The CEP meets every year in conjunction with the ATCM.
The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington on 1 December 1959 by the twelve countries whose scientists had been active in and around Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58. It entered into force in 1961 and has since been acceded to by many other nations.
BAS Director, Jane Francis gives her perspective on this anniversary: Protecting the Antarctic Environment: 25 years on