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Public Papers - 1992 - February

Message to the Senate Transmitting the Antarctic Treaty Protocol on Environmental Protection

1992-02-14

To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit herewith, for the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, with Annexes, which was done at Madrid October 4, 1991, and an additional Annex, done at Bonn October 17, 1991. I also transmit for the information of the Senate the report of the Department of State with respect to the Protocol.

The Protocol designates Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science, and provides for an indefinite ban on mineral resource activities there. It specifically prohibits all activities relating to Antarctic mineral resources, except for scientific research, with the proviso that this prohibition cannot be amended by less than unanimous agreement of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties for at least 50 years after entry into force of the Protocol.

The Protocol requires Parties to protect Antarctic fauna and flora and imposes strict limitations on disposal of wastes in Antarctica and discharge of pollutants into Antarctic waters. It also requires application of environmental impact assessment procedures to activities undertaken in Antarctica, including nongovernmental activities, for which advance notice is required under the Antarctic Treaty. Parties are further required to provide for response to environmental emergencies, including the development of joint contingency plans.

Detailed mandatory rules for environmental protection pursuant to these requirements are incorporated in a system of annexes, forming an integral part of the Protocol. Specific annexes on environmental impact assessment, conservation of Antarctic fauna and flora, waste disposal and waste management, and the prevention of marine pollution were adopted with the Protocol. A fifth annex on area protection and management was adopted October 17, 1991, by the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties at the Sixteenth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting. Provision is also made for additional annexes to be developed following entry into force of the Protocol. The Protocol establishes a Committee on Environmental Protection to provide advice and recommendations to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings on the implementation of the Protocol.

The Protocol incorporates provisions to ensure effective compliance with its requirements, including compulsory and binding procedures for settlement of disputes relating to mineral resource activities, environmental impact assessment and emergency response action, as well as over the detailed rules included in the annexes.

I believe the Protocol, with its Annexes, to be fully in the U.S. interest. Its provisions advance basic U.S. goals of protecting the environment of Antarctica, preserving the unique opportunities Antarctica offers for scientific research of global significance, and maintaining Antarctica as a zone of peace. Its conclusion represents an important step in strengthening the Antarctic Treaty and the unique form of international cooperation it has fostered.

I recommend that the Senate give early and favorable consideration to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, with Annexes, and give its advice and consent to ratification.

George Bush

The White House,

February 14, 1992.

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