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.