Antarctic nations gather in Hobart
10th June 2012
For the first time in nearly three decades Australia will host the significant Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM), with more than 300 delegates from 50 nations in Hobart for the eight day conference.
The 35th meeting will discuss a range of issues including operational safety in Antarctica, tourism management, the impact of climate change and scientific cooperation.
Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Dr Tony Fleming, said Antarctica is unique in both its geography and governance.
“The Antarctic Treaty system protects Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science,” Dr Fleming said.
“The annual meeting of the Antarctic Treaty parties is the primary international forum for discussions on governing Antarctica, including collaboration on scientific, environmental, policy and operational matters.”
Australia will introduce several environmental initiatives including developing the Antarctic protected areas system.
“The protected areas system already protects many important and delicate parts of the continent, but we will be presenting a rigorous scientific basis for establishing further areas to protect the full diversity of Antarctic ecosystems.
“Australia also has proposals to address the risks of transferring species to and within Antarctica, and to facilitate the clean-up of contaminated sites,” Dr Fleming said.
The Antarctic Treaty, which applies to the area south of 60° South, includes important provisions applicable to all activities, including that:
- Antarctica may only be used for peaceful purposes
- there shall be freedom of scientific investigation
- scientific plans, personnel and observations are freely exchanged
- the position of states with respect to territorial sovereignty is not prejudiced
- nuclear explosions and disposal of radioactive waste are prohibited
- Parties may inspect the facilities of other Parties at any time
The Treaty is complemented by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid Protocol), which provides for comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and designates Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.
Antarctic nations gather in Hobart
Australian Antarctic Division Director Dr Tony Fleming:
The Antarctic Treaty was negotiated over 50 years ago and there currently are 50 nations which are a party to the Antarctic Treaty and the Treaty governs Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
These nations which are bound by an incredible international instrument, it places peace and science at the centre of Antarctica’s future.
It drives collaboration which has been very successful in bringing nations together to cooperate on operational matters, to cooperate on logistics and most importantly to cooperate on scientific investigations.
Nations which are a party to the Antarctic treaty system hold an annual meeting and they’re holding the meeting in Hobart this year. It’s the third time the meeting’s been held in Australia, it’s the first time the meeting has been held in Hobart, Australia’s gateway to the Antarctic. So it’s a really important event for Australia and for Hobart as well.
There’ll be a discussion about a range of policy matters, things like invasive species, things like protection of the Antarctic environment and also tourism in the Antarctic.
It is an incredibly important year to host the Treaty meeting because it’s the centenary of the Australasian Antarctica Expedition - that was the expedition led by Douglas Mawson. It was our first expedition, went down to commonwealth bay and explored much of eastern Antarctica and ever since then Australia’s has had a vital interest in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
We have neighbours in East Antarctica ranging from France, Russia, China, India and Japan. South Korea is now building a base. We have a shared facility with Romania. So there’s an incredible sense of collaboration in Antarctic affairs.
I have only had limited experience in Antarctica, I‘ve been in this job for less than 10 months. But I’ve already been struck by the positive spirit of collaboration of many nations and they put collaboration first and foremost.