Liability for environmental damage

The Warsaw meeting saw useful progress on the vexed question of developing rules for liability for environmental damage — an obligation arising from Article 16 of the Madrid Protocol.

The need is to have rules to decide responsibilities if an environmental disaster were to occur in Antarctica. Like elsewhere in the world, environmental liability rules are difficult to settle — a problem exacerbated by the unique operational and jurisdictional situation of Antarctica.

In the past, Parties have been split between a single annex (the so-called comprehensive approach) or a step-by-step approach starting with response action in environmental emergencies. Parties have now agreed to the latter approach on the expectation that broader concerns can be addressed at a later time. Accordingly, excellent progress was made on issues which in the past have highlighted the differences of approach.

COMNAP contributed practical advice on worst-case scenarios and the outcomes of a survey of recent Antarctic incidents.

The Warsaw meeting will lead to a further revision of a draft annex to form the basis of further negotiations in 2003.

Andrew Jackson,
Manager, Antarctic Treaty and Government, AAD