The Environmental Code of Conduct for Australian Field Activities in Antarctica was developed due to the understanding that field activities, though usually less intensive or substantial than activities conducted in the vicinity of stations, can nevertheless have considerable negative impacts on the Antarctic environment.

An Environmental Code of Conduct for Fieldwork in the McMurdo Dry Valleys was used as the basis for the AAT Code. The Dry Valleys Code has been successfully implemented by the United States and New Zealand Antarctic Programs, and has received wide support from the other Antarctic Treaty Nations. Consultations with scientists, environmental managers, operations staff and expeditioners were undertaken to adapt the Dry Valleys guidelines to the AAT environment and the operational nature of the Australian Antarctic Program, which included such changes as the inclusion of guidelines for minimising disturbance to wildlife (absent in the Dry Valleys), plus an accompanying table of recommended minimum approach distances.

The Code is intended to raise peoples’ awareness of the possible environmental consequences of their activities, and of the susceptibility of some elements of the Antarctic environment relative to the Australian environment. The actions of individuals can contribute significantly to protecting the Antarctic environment and the Code provides general principles to assist people in minimising their own environmental impacts when travelling, camping and working in the field.