The Protocol on Environmental Protection
The Protocol is a comprehensive environmental protection regime that includes a main text and six annexes that provide a legally binding set of conservation measures applicable to most activities in the Antarctic Treaty Area including the continent itself, its islands and the surrounding Southern Ocean.
The main purpose of the protocol is to ensure that environmental protection is a fundamental consideration in the planning and conduct of activities in the region. The protocol bans all aspects of mineral resource exploration and exploitation in Antarctica, includes provisions for prior Environmental Impact Assessments for all activities, sets standards for the prevention of pollution on land and at sea, creates a mechanism to set aside protected areas and establishes a Committee for Environmental Protection.
These flaws may significantly weaken the effectiveness of the Protocol, making it impossible for it to meet its environmental objectives.
Campaign for a stronger protocol
The initial passing of the Protocol was an outcome in large part of nearly two decades of campaigning by ASOC and its member organizations against mining and oil development in Antarctica. ASOC is still campaigning for a stronger protocol and one that is implemented correctly throughout the world. ASOC’s Protocol Implementation Campaign makes use of the Protocol, as a legally binding international agreement, to advocate actions that lead to the highest environmental protection standards for the Antarctic region. Implementing the Protocol is linked with other campaign issues on which ASOC is active, including Southern Oceans fisheries, Antarctic commercial tourism, and biological prospecting. At its most basic level the Protocol Implementation Campaign promotes appropriate legal and practical implementation of the Protocol by individual Parties and the Antarctic Treaty System as a whole. More broadly, the Protocol Implementation Campaign aims to ensure that the objective of "comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment" articulated in Article 2 of the Protocol can be met in perpetuity - which may require other instruments or approaches in addition to the Protocol itself.