Antarctic Treaty Parties tackle emerging challenges
Photo: Stephen Powell
The 33rd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and 13th meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) were held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in May 2010.
The meetings considered a range of proposals, including recommendations arising from two recent Antarctic Treaty Meetings of Experts (ATME): one on Climate Change and Implications for Antarctic Management and Governance; the other on Management of Ship-Borne Tourism. Meetings of Experts provide the Antarctic Treaty Parties with a forum for detailed discussion of specific issues, drawing on specialist expertise.
- The ATME was informed by the first international, detailed synthesis of scientific understanding of the Antarctic climate system, presented in the Antarctic Climate Change and Environment report prepared by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.
- Australia presented an initial assessment of the implications of climate change for existing and future infrastructure, logistics and environmental values. The ATCM endorsed the recommendation that other Parties should conduct and report on similar assessments.
- Future ATCMs will focus on the implications of climate change for management of the Antarctic, and almost 30 other recommendations arising from the ATME. These include addressing risks associated with the introduction of non-native species, which are predicted to increase in a warming world. This issue is being tackled through work initiated by Australia, France and New Zealand to develop a package of practical preventive measures.
Tourism and shipping
- The ATME built on the Parties’ previous efforts to ensure Antarctic shipping, in particular tourism shipping, is as safe as possible. Cooperation with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which regulates shipping activity worldwide, has been a particular focus. In response to an ATME proposal by Australia, the Parties agreed to cooperate on Antarctic issues under consideration in the IMO, to help ensure Antarctic interests are properly considered.
- The ATCM agreed on the importance of conducting inspections of passenger vessels bound for the Antarctic Treaty area, and the exchange of information on vessel locations and search-and-rescue assets.
- Australia provided an assessment of the environmental aspects of ship-borne tourism. The CEP encouraged use of this approach as a guide to assessing the environmental risks of all Antarctic shipping. Further work to assess the range of ways that tourism interacts with the Antarctic environment is being undertaken through a study proposed by Australia, New Zealand and France.
PHILLIP TRACEY and EWAN McIVOR
Senior Policy Officers, Australian Antarctic Division
Countdown to 2012: Australia to host the 35th ATCM in Hobart
Photo: Wendy Pyper
Australia has been active in Antarctica for more than 100 years and negotiated the Antarctic Treaty with 11 other original signatories in 1959. Since then, Australia has hosted two meetings of the Treaty Parties – the first in 1961, and the 12th in 1983.
For the first time the meeting will be held in Hobart, the home of the Australian Antarctic Division and two international Secretariats; the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).
Hobart is Australia’s main gateway for Antarctic departures and arrivals, and a hub of Antarctic and Southern Ocean research, and will be the perfect place to showcase Australia’s commitment to the Antarctic Treaty and its goals of peace, science and environmental protection.
Tasmania’s historic and natural attractions will also be on offer to delegates from the 48 Antarctic Treaty Parties over the meeting period.
The meeting will be jointly organised by the Australian Antarctic Division and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.