The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1991. By the commencement of the 29th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Edinburgh from 12 to 23 June 2006, all 28 consultative parties to the treaty, as well as 4 non-consultative parties, had ratified the Protocol. The United Kingdom ratified the Protocol on 25 April 1995.
The Protocol sets out a framework of stringent provisions for the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment. Under the Protocol, all activities in Antarctica must be planned and their potential environmental impacts assessed and minimised.
The Committee for Environmental Protection meets annually in conjunction with the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, to administer the Protocol, thereafter providing advice and formulating recommendations on the protection of the Antarctic environment.
The UK submitted a range of Working Papers to the 29 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, held in Edinburgh from 12 to 23 June 2006. Topics covered included guidelines for visitor sites in the Antarctic Peninsular region, wildlife awareness information, Marine Protected Areas, guidelines on the exchange of ballast water by vessels in the waters surrounding Antarctica and a summary of the UK- led environmental workshop to identify future environmental challenges in Antarctica, which preceded this meeting.
The UK has contributed robustly to discussions of wider Antarctic tourism, environmental, operational and scientific matters. The UK-drafted Edinburgh Declaration on Antarctica, published on 19 June, sets out the commitment of the Antarctic Treaty Parties to the development of polar science during the forthcoming International Polar Year 2007-2008.