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Date: Fri, 19 Dec 97 09:59:57 CST
From: rich%pencil@UKCC.uky.edu (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Historic Antarctic Protection Agreement Becomes Law
/** headlines: 187.0 **/
** Topic: Historic Antarctic Protection Agreement Becomes Law **
** Written 11:21 PM Dec 18, 1997 by econet in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 8:41 PM Dec 16, 1997 by nobody@xs2.greenpeace.org in gp.press */
/* ---------- "Historic Antarctic Protection Agree" ---------- */
From: "greenbase" <greenbas@gb.greenpeace.org>

Historic Antarctic Protection Agreement Becomes Law

From Greenbase <greenbas@gb.greenpeace.org>
16 December 1997

WASHINGTON, DC, December 16, 1997 -- The Antarctica Project and Greenpeace today celebrated the final ratification of the landmark Environmental Protection Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. The Protocol bans mining in Antarctica for a minimum of 50 years and designates the whole continent and its dependent marine ecosystems a "natural reserve devoted to peace and science." Entry into force of the Protocol is necessary to safeguard Antarctica's status as a global wilderness area and scientific laboratory.

Japan's ratification yesterday was the last needed from all 26 Antarctic Treaty member nations for the Protocol to become law. It will formally enter into force in 30 days. Negotiated in 1991, it has taken over six years for all Treaty nations to ratify the Protocol. Prior to Japan, the last nations to ratify were Finland, United States, and Russia.

For U.S. environmental organizations who have collaborated over many years, first to oppose the potential opening of mining and oil drilling in Antarctica, and then to build the strongest possible international agreement to protect the Antarctic environment, international ratification is a major victory. The U.S. ratified the Protocol in April 1996.

Antarctica is the world's last great wilderness, a continent of awe-inspiring beauty, and a vital international scientific laboratory," said Beth Clark, Director of the Washington, DC- based environmental group, The Antarctica Project. "By establishing high standards for all human activities in the region, the Environmental Protocol goes a long way towards safeguarding Antarctica before it suffers from the human impacts felt over most of the rest of the earth."

"The Antarctic Protocol ratification is especially gratifying when viewed in contrast to the disappointing treaty on climate change hammered out last week in Kyoto," said Greenpeace's Gerry Leape. "It shows that countries of the world can, in fact, come together to achieve a meaningful environmental goal." For the last 13 years, Greenpeace has campaigned for Antarctica to be declared a World Park, conceived to be a legally enforceable, internationally accepted administrative system for the protection of the Antarctic wilderness. In 1987, Greenpeace constructed and maintained the first and only non- governmental base in Antarctica devoted to research and preservation of the environment.

The 1959 Antarctic Treaty has kept Antarctica free of conflict, but human pressures on the continent's unique environment have been growing rapidly from increased numbers of scientific research stations and tourist ships. As well as banning all oil and mineral exploration and mining, the Protocol contains a series of crucial safeguards on environmental impact assessment of all activities, waste disposal, marine pollution, specially protected areas and the conservation of wildlife. A Committee on Environmental Protection will oversee its operation.

Antarctica represents about ten percent of the earth's surface, and plays a central role in regulating the earth's weather patterns and ocean circulation systems. The surrounding seas support a wealth of penguins and other seabirds, fish, seals, and whales. The pristine nature of the region provides unique opportunities for scientific research that is crucial to the understanding and monitoring of global climate change, ozone depletion, and atmospheric pollution.

The 26 member nations of the Antarctic Treaty are: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, People's Republic of China, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay. [Note: Photos and video footage of Antarctica are available from Greenpeace.]

Greenpeace on the Internet at http://www.greenpeace.org

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