The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed in Madrid on October 4, 1991 and entered into force in 1998. It designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” (Art. 2). Article 3 of the Environment Protocol sets forth basic principles applicable to human activities in Antarctica and Article 7 prohibits all activities relating to Antarctic mineral resources, except for scientific research. Until 2048 the Protocol can only be modified by unanimous agreement of all Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty. In addition, the prohibition on mineral resource activities cannot be removed unless a binding legal regime on Antarctic mineral resource activities is in force (Art. 25.5).
The Protocol has six Annexes. Annexes I to IV were adopted in 1991 together with the Protocol and entered into force in 1998. Annex V on Area Protection and Management was adopted separately by the 16 th ATCM in 1991 and entered into force in 2002. Annex VI on Liability Arising from Environmental Emergencies was adopted by the 28th ATCM in Stockholm in 2005 and will enter into force once approved by all Consultative Parties.
The Environment Protocol established the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) as an expert advisory body to provide advice and formulate recommendations to the ATCM in connection with the implementation of the Environment Protocol. The CEP meets every year in conjunction with the ATCM.
In 2016, the CEP developed a publication on the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. This publication was launched on 4 October 2016 and it is available in English, French, Russian and Spanish. It can be downloaded from here and hard copies are available here