The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty celebrates its first 25 years. Signed in Madrid on October 4, 1991, the Protocol entered into force in 1998, after being ratified by all Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties. It designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” (Art. 2).
In 2016, the Committee for Environmental Protection (an advisory body established by the Environment Protocol) developed a publication on the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol. This publication was launched on 4 October 2016 and is available in English, French, Russian and Spanish. It can be downloaded here and hard copies are available here.
The Environment Protocol sets forth basic principles applicable to human activities in Antarctica and prohibits all activities relating to Antarctic mineral resources, except for scientific research.
Until 2048 the Protocol can only be modified by unanimous agreement of all Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty. In addition, the prohibition on mineral resource activities cannot be removed unless a binding legal regime on Antarctic mineral resource activities is in force.
The Protocol has six Annexes. Annexes I to IV were adopted in 1991 together with the Protocol and entered into force in 1998. Annex V on Area Protection and Management was adopted separately by the 16 th ATCM in 1991 and entered into force in 2002. Annex VI on Liability Arising from Environmental Emergencies was adopted by the 28th ATCM in 2005 and will enter into force once approved by all Consultative Parties.