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Scientists and experts commemorate 30th anniversary of Madrid Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty

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Today (4 October), ministers, leading scientists and experts from around the world are meeting at the Archeological Museum of Madrid to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Madrid Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. In 1991, this Protocol, hailed as a significant achievement for environmental governance, declared the full protection of the entire Antarctic continent from exploitation. 

High-level Dialogues will discuss the different challenges that Antarctica is facing today. This will be followed by a Ministerial meeting, where hopefully commitments will be made by countries to new ground-breaking action on how to deal with these challenges in the coming 30 years.

[A petition signed by almost 1.5 million people worldwide calling on world leaders to significantly increase the protection of Antarctica’s waters will also be handed over to the Spanish President of the Government by NGO partners at the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), Avaaz, Blue Nature Alliance, Ocean Unite, OnlyOne, SeaLegacy, The Pew Charitable Trusts and We Move Europe.]

This event is a unique opportunity to celebrate this Treaty as a strong symbol of multilateralism and good governance, and to show the world that this multilateral action is urgently needed again now that climate change is accelerating and is threatening this fragile wilderness” said Claire Christian, Executive Director of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition.

Antarctica is undergoing huge changes due to the climate crisis- with melting ice and temperatures rising faster than anywhere else on Earth. While the continent has been protected from exploitation, the waters that surround it are still open to commercial fishing which has been expanding in recent decades, threatening large swathes of vulnerable ecosystems and important wildlife habitats. 

An international body that falls under the Antarctic Treaty called CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) regulates fisheries and is responsible for conserving Antarctica’s marine life. It is currently considering the designation of three new large-scale protected areas in the Weddell Sea, East Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, which would help these areas adapt and build resilience to the unprecedented changes happening to marine ecosystems by the climate crisis.

This additional protection would safeguard almost an extra 4 million km2 of ocean from human activities, providing a safe haven for amazing wildlife, such as whales, seals and penguins in a further 1% of the global ocean. 

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All CCAMLR members, including European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands Poland, Spain, and Sweden) and the European Union are in support of these new areas, with the exception of Russia and China. 

Leaders meeting here in Madrid, including Spain, must agree to use all their diplomatic weight to bring Russia and China on board with this historic biodiversity and climate action this year”. declared Pascal Lamy, President of the Paris Peace Forum,Co-head of the Antarctica2020 Champions Group.

We need to act now to protect Antarctica’s ocean. The region cannot afford yet another lost year of inaction” concluded Geneviève Pons,  Director General of “Europe Jacques Delors”, Co-head of the Antarctica2020 Champions Group.

To register at the event, please send your name and ID number at the following address: [email protected]

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Notes for editors

Antarctica2020 is an initiative bringing together leaders and influential voices from the world of politics, science, sport and media that is advocating high-level support from world leaders for the protection of these areas. This initiative, together with NGO partners at the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), Avaaz, Blue Nature Alliance, Ocean Unite, OnlyOne, SeaLegacy, The Pew Charitable Trusts and We Move Europe will deliver to the Spanish President of the Government the #CallonCCAMLR petition that has been signed by almost 1.5 million people worldwide calling for protection of Antarctica’s waters this year. 

The Antarctic Treaty was agreed in 1959 and came into force in 1961, it has 54 parties https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctic_Treaty_System.

Antarctica plays a critical role in regulating the global climate and through its extremely rich biodiversity and strong circumpolar current supplies nutrients to the rest of the global ocean. Covering 30% of the ocean’s surface, the Southern Ocean is a major buffer against climate change, absorbing as much as 75 % of the excess heat and 40 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that have been taken up by the global ocean.

This celebratory meeting will take place a few days ahead of the 40thannual meeting of CCAMLR and the COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity that are both starting on the 11th The meeting is expected to adopt the Madrid Declaration, which will be an expression of the shared commitment to protect the biodiversity of this unique area of our planet.

CCAMLR: The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established under the Antarctic Treaty System to preserve the biodiversity of the Southern Ocean. CCAMLR is a consensus-based organization consisting of 26 Members, including the EU and eight of its Member States. CCAMLR's mandate includes fisheries management based on the ecosystem approach, the protection of Antarctic nature and the creation of vast marine protected areas allowing the ocean to increase the resilience to climate change.

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