25 Years ago today, on 4 October 1991, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was adopted in Madrid. That outcome was the project of many people over many years, and has made a lasting difference ot the way Antarctica is both conceptualised and used for human activity. The Madrid Protocol (as it is now generally known) banned mining in Antarctica, and set aside the icy continent as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science. It remains the cornerstone for environmental protection over the 10% of our planet that is Antarctica.
The Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) is an advisory body establihsed by the Environmental Protocol. To celebrate 25 years since the signing of the Madrid Protocol, the CEP have released a publication about the emergecne of the Protocol, the work of the CEP, and the reasons behind Antarctica being designated as a reserve dedicated to peace and science.
The central principles of the Protocol are:
- The designation of Antarctica as a ‘natural reserve, devoted to peace and science’;
- A prohibition on mining and mineral resource activities in the Antarctic Treaty area;
- The requirement that protection of the environment shall be a fundamental consideration in the planning and conduct of all activities in the Antarctic;
- A comprehensive framework for assessing environmental impacts in Antarctica, including prior assessment of all activities;
- A requirement to establish contingency plans and provide for prompt and effective response to environmental emergencies in the Antarctic;
- The establishment of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP).
To find out more about what the six annexes of the Madrid Protocol contain, visit the Antarctic Treaty System website here or download the CEP publication (available in the official Antarctic Treaty languages of English, French, Russian and Spanish).