The Antarctic Treaty system ensures protecting the unique Antarctic environment is a fundamental consideration in the planning and conduct of all activities in Antarctica.

The Protocol on Environment Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid Protocol), which was adopted in 1991 and entered into force in 1998, provides comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and designates Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.

It puts in place environmental principles to guide all activities in Antarctica, prohibits mining and mineral exploration and includes annexes relating to:

  • environmental impact assessment
  • conservation of fauna and flora
  • waste disposal and waste management
  • prevention of marine pollution
  • area protection and management
  • liability arising from environmental emergencies.

The Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP), established under the Madrid Protocol, provides advice and formulates recommendations to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) in connection with the implementation of the Protocol.

Current priorities of the CEP include:

  • preventing the introduction of non-native species to Antarctica
  • managing the environmental implications of climate change
  • improving understanding of how Antarctic tourism interacts with the environment
  • addressing ongoing environmental challenges from activities conducted before the Madrid Protocol entered into force, including the clean-up of past waste disposal sites and abandoned facilities
  • the methodical development of a suite of Antarctic protected areas

The CEP meets every year in conjunction with the ATCM and is holding its meeting in Hobart this week.