28 March 1994
on a European common policy for the polar regions
(Rapporteur: Lord NEWALL,
United Kingdom, European Democratic Group)
The polar regions are of particular importance for the ecological balance of our planet. Nowadays, these last virgin lands on the globe are faced with more and more degradation resulting from a variety of forms of pollution.
Without any doubt, both the Arctic and the Antarctic suffer from the damaging effects of the economic activities which have developed in these areas, particularly those related to the exploitation of the regions' natural resources. Nevertheless, and the Assembly points to the responsibility of the European states in this respect, the polar regions' environmental problems are largely "imported" from other continents through long-distance cross-border pollution.
Since collective responsibility for this situation is clear, concerted efforts are needed to preserve the polar regions. The Assembly underlines the need for as many states as possible to implement uniformly and without reservations the existing international conventions. It also suports the concrete activities undertaken by other international bodies, such as the Nordic Council and the Inter Parliamentary Union.
I. Draft recommendation
1. The Assembly is seriously concerned by the growing threats to the natural environment of the polar regions.
2. Various types of pollution such as the leakage or discharge of radioactive materials or waste, industrial pollution, oil spills, acid rain and even the effects of tourism are threatening to cause serious — and sometimes irreversible — damage to the ecosystems of our planet's last intact regions.
3. The danger is all the more serious since the low level of biological energy makes polar ecosystems particularly sensitive to disturbance, and pollution levels not considered especially dangerous under other climatic conditions can therefore have a much more serious and lasting impact in these areas of the globe.
4. Apart from the pollution caused by activities in the polar regions themselves, in particular those connected with the exploitation of natural resources, these regions' environmental problems are largely the result of external factors.
5. In this connection, the Assembly points to the responsibility of European states whose industrial activities have a direct impact on the polar environment through long-distance cross-border pollution.
6. Collective action is therefore essential because only joint efforts will enable us effectively to preserve these regions of our planet.
7. The ending of the Cold War, and the opening up of these regions that were dominated for decades by the superpowers' strategic interests, have allowed closer co-operation among the states concerned, which has already led to a large number of initiatives to protect the polar regions.
8. Unfortunately, although international agreements have proved to be one of the most effective means of protecting the polar regions, their practical impact is often limited by a failure to implement them properly and uniformly, and by the many reservations entered in respect of the texts in question.
9. The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
i. in the case of the Arctic, support the efforts of the Nordic Council in areas that are of common interest;
ii. study to this end the possibility of implementing, as part of the Council of Europe's intergovernmental programme, activities concerning:
a. the reduction of air pollution and its impact on the climate; as well as the effects of the depletion of the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect;
b. the boosting of co-operation on the conservation and management of species, in particular through the Bern Convention;
c. the development of scientific research in fields affecting the ecological situation in the Arctic;
d. investigation and fact finding studies regarding the nuclear contamination of the Arctic region, including impact assessment and programmes for the prevention of further pollution of the natural environment;
iii. in the case of Antarctica, invite:
a. those Council of Europe member states which have signed and ratified the Washington Treaty and the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to take all possible legislative, administrative and technical measures to ensure that the commitments they have entered into are implemented properly and uniformly;
b. any member states which have neither signed nor ratified these instruments to do so at the earliest opportunity.
II. Draft resolution
1. The Assembly is convinced of the importance of the role that parliamentary bodies — both national and European — can play as initiators of action and guarantors of democracy in efforts to protect and improve the environment in which we live.
2. The work of the West Nordic Parliamentary Council and of the representatives of the parliaments of the countries of the Arctic region has clearly demonstrated the contribution which concerted interparliamentary action can make to solving the ecological problems of the region.
3. In this context, the Assembly welcomes the holding of the International Conference for Parliamentarians on Development and Protection of the Arctic Region by the Nordic Council (Reykjavik, 16-17 August 1993), at which the Parliamentary Assembly was represented.
4. It particularly welcomes the decision of the conference to establish a standing committee of parliamentarians of the Arctic region.
5. The Assembly also believes that existing institutions such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union provide a natural framework for developing parliamentary co-operation in the Antarctic region.
6. The Assembly therefore resolves:
i. to help foster parliamentary co-operation in respect of the polar regions and promote the participation of all states with interests or responsibilities in those regions or whose policies are likely to have an impact on them;
ii. to develop its relations with the Nordic Council and to propose joint action, in particular with the West Nordic Parliamentary Council.
III. Explanatory memorandum
presented by Lord NEWALL
Table of contents
I. The Arctic 8
II. The Antarctic 8
A. The Arctic 9
I. The Arctic region 9
1. Defining the Arctic 9
2. A vulnerable environment 10
3. Important aspects 10
II. Activities in the Arctic region and negative consequences within the Arctic region and globally 11
1. Environmental threats 11
a. Various sources of radioactivity (nuclear wastes) 12
b. Other hazardous wastes due to industrial pollution 13
c. Other threats 13
d. Global warming and ozone depletion 15
2. Cultural and social effects of environmental changes
in the Arctic 16
III. The need for a greater co-operation: among all Arctic states
and internationally 16
1. Improvement of the international atmosphere 16
2. Political and legal co-operation for an environmental
protection and an ecologically sustainable development 17
2.1. What has been done 17
2.2. What has to be developed 21
3. International scientific co-operation 22
3.1. Achievements and difficulties 22
3.2. What has to be developed 23
IV. Europe and the Arctic region 24
1. The new security situation in Europe and how this
should be reflected on conditions in the Arctic region 24
2. Implications of developments in the Arctic region
for Europe and vice-versa: the need for a European
common policy in the Arctic region 25
B. The Antarctic 26
I. Environmental situation in the Antarctic 26
1. Antarctic's natural environment 26
2. Human activities: threats and consequences 27
II. The legal framework: the Antarctic system 30
1. Overview of the legislation 30
2. The Antarctic Treaty (Washington Treaty) 30
2.1. Principles and objectives 30
2.2. Structure 31
3. Scientific research and environmental protection
in the Antarctic system 32
3.1. Scientific research 32
3.2. Environmental protection 32
III. The 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the
Antarctic Treaty 34
IV. Europe and the conservation of Antarctica 35
The objectives of the present report are mainly two: to analyse the environmental situation in the polar regions, both in the Arctic region and in the Antarctic, and to give an overview of what has been done and what is being done in order to promote the co-operation for environmental protection in these parts of the earth. The final purpose will be to try to define the guidelines for a common European policy in the polar regions.
I. The Arctic
With the increasing threat posed by economic exploitation and global pollution, there is a growing appreciation of the importance of the natural environment of the Arctic region. The region is rich in natural resources: fish, energy resources and minerals and the exploitation of these natural resources in the north has resulted in environmental degradation. In the other hand, the whole circumpolar Arctic is a sink for all kinds of pollutants from the south. Many of the pollutants reach the Arctic in the form of long-range transboundary pollution from the eastern parts of the North American continent, central and eastern Europe, and China and the Far East. Scandinavians claim that roughly one-third of their pollution comes from eastern Europe.
The Arctic environment is specially vulnerable to pollution due to the cold and harsh climate and the low biological activity. If actions for the Arctic protection are not taken now, the degradation may become irreversible.
Much larger international co-operation is necessary not only among all Arctic states but also internationally. In this context, Europe also has a role to play. The new security situation is a good precondition in order to work on the establishment of the guidelines for a common European policy in the Arctic region.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was invited to attend as an observer, the Nordic Council's Arctic Conference held in Reykjavik, Iceland, on 16 and 17 August 1993. This conference gathered together parliamentarians and representatives of organisations and institutions from all the countries that have special interests in the Arctic region.The result of the conference has been a final document in which important recommendations are formulated (Appendix I).
The Council of Europe shares these interests not only because the Nordic Council's members which form the Nordic region, namely, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, also belong to our Organisation, but also because the problems and future of the Arctic are matters in which the Council of Europe also works. The potential of the region includes new opportunities for co-operation between east and west following the end of the Cold War, improved knowledge and awareness of the environment and impending dangers due to pollution, climatic changes and nuclear accidents.
II. The Antarctic
Antarctica is also particularly sensitive to pollution, as has been witnessed on the shores of the Antarctic Peninsula. The increase in scientific activities and phenomena such as the "hole" in the ozone layer have heightened public awareness of the threats that certain human activities may pose to the Antarctic environment and the global system. Since the continent's isolation no longer protects it from the impact of mankind, the impact of the activities of all parties operating in Antarctica must be reduced to a minimum.
As the last virgin continent on earth, it is absolutely essential that Antarctica be kept intact since it plays a crucial role in the climatic equilibrium of our planet and is a key research location for monitoring global climate changes. It is also the last and largest natural reservoir of freshwater on earth. Antarctica is a unique example of a continent administered by a group of countries as a demilitarised zone devoted to science. It is a site of international co-operation but also of dangerous rivalries because of the stakes involved in the potential exploitation of its mineral resources. However, in a very short space of time, there has been a fundamental shift in attitudes away from a regulatory approach towards prohibitory measures. The 1988 Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities, known as the Wellington Convention, has not been ratified, and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was adopted in Madrid on 4 October 1991. The Protocol designates Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science. It bans all mineral resource activities, other than for scientific research, and sets out a series of environmental principles in four annexes.
In order to achieve a united and coherent approach to the problem of environmental protection in Antarctica, the above Protocol must be ratified and enter into force as soon as possible. However, the Madrid Protocol of 1991 is incomplete, as it does not regulate tourism in Antarctica nor the activities of non-governmental organisations. Steps must therefore be taken to deal with this. We must also strive to ensure that the Protocol's fifty-year moratorium on prospecting for and extracting mineral resources in Antarctica and the surrounding waters is made permanent.
A. The Arctic
I. The Arctic region
1. Defining the Arctic
Different northern countries have placed administrative boundaries on what they consider to be the Arctic, for political or administrative purposes. However, for the purposes we are concerned with here there is no exact limit. No single criterion will serve to give a meaningful delimitation of the Arctic region. Therefore, the Arctic Circle, at 66 degrees northern latitude, is commonly regarded as the southern boundary for the Arctic.
In the marine context the southern extension of the sea ice is sometimes taken as the Arctic boundary. It is this approach that will be followed here so that the area coverage includes the Bering Sea in the North-east Pacific and the Davis Strait/Labrador Sea in the North-west Atlantic (see map in Appendix). Consequently, eight countries are "Arctic": Canada, Denmark (by virtue of its sovereignty over Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States of America.
In addition, Germany, Great Britain and Poland may be also included among the Arctic nations by claiming strong and long-standing research interests in this region.
2. A vulnerable environment
The Arctic environment is characterised by adverse climatic conditions. All living things in the Arctic have had to adapt to conditions of low and interrupted solar radiation, low temperatures, which mean that liquid water, essential for life, is often and repeatedly frozen solid as ice or snow, and the chemical reactions may be ten or one hundred times slower than in lower latitudes.
The result is Arctic ecosystems adapted to low biological energy, with relatively few species and simple food chains, very sensitive to any outside disturbance or change in conditions. Consequently, the Arctic regions are particularly sensitive to climate change and small changes in the global environment may result in large ones in the Arctic environment. What may be considered as relatively harmless levels of pollution in warmer latitudes may have stronger and more long-term impacts in the north.
3. Important aspects
The Arctic (as well as the Antarctic) plays a crucial role in regulating the earth's climate. Climatic history seems to indicate that the polar areas serve as "climatic controls". The Arctic Ocean is believed to play a crucial role in this context. It affects the global carbon dioxide cycle in that the waters in the North Atlantic act as "carbon sinks" where CO2 is transported from the surface to the water masses and bottom sediments, thereby absorbing atmospheric increases in CO2. Several large scale research programmes analyse these processes.
In addition to the importance of the Arctic's role in climate, the region is also extremely important from an economical point of view due to the exploitation of its natural resources, especially fish and minerals. More recently, however, other benefits have been developed such as oil, gas, hydroelectric power. Shipping lanes and tourism are also increasing in importance.
As far as the living marine sources are concerned, the Arctic seas provide rich fishing grounds. There are three main areas: the North-east Atlantic, the North-west Atlantic grounds, the high North Pacific waters. In a world fisheries context, Arctic fisheries are highly significant, producing about 10% of the total world fish landings. Characteristic of the Arctic ecosystems are low species diversity. Therefore, fishing is concentrated in a few species. Such ecosystems may be seriously affected by over-exploitation of one or more key species in the system. Consequently, it is very important to enhance ecosystem research in the Arctic Ocean, especially multi-species research, to improve the understanding of the ecosystem and avoid over-exploitation.
The most abundant and economically important fish species are cod, capelin, pollock, herring and shrimps. The prerequisite for continued catches of high quality fish from these areas is that the oceans stay clean. There are signs of increased pollution in some fish and mammals of the high north that originates from the south. This is a cause of concern and needs to be seriously addressed by politicians and authorities in the countries involved.
Another problem is that some areas of the northern oceans are outside the national 200 mile economic zones. Therefore it is important to establish an agreement on the management and control of fisheries on the high seas.
On the other hand, the Arctic contains rich mineral energy resources, onshore as well as offshore and the petroleum resources are by far the most economically important. The Arctic is one of the richest regions in the world in oil and gas, that is to say Alaska, western Siberia). In addition to that, a large number of enormous deposits of other mineral resources are found in the Arctic. Among others, lead and zinc are mined in Canada and Greenland, iron in Sweden and gold in Alaska. Coal is also mined on a number of locations in the Arctic.
Russia (Siberia) is by far the largest Arctic mining nation, with Norilsk as the most important centre which is, with the Kola-region, economically dependent on exploitation of mineral resources, such as copper, diamonds, gold, iron, lead, zinc, nickel, tin, silver, platinum, palladium, cobalt.
Due to the high technology needed and transportation costs, mineral deposits in the Arctic must generally be more productive than those in more temperate areas in order to be developed. However, the increasing weight placed on environmental factors contribute further to restrict Arctic mining operations.
Concerning the other natural resources which have been developed more recently, there are large-scale hydroelectric power projects in the Arctic, such as in northern Canada, in the Scandinavian countries or in Russia. That is a major export activity of some Arctic regions (Canada) as well as a major environmental issue.
The infrastructure in the form of pipelines, roads and electric transmission lines has also been developed and the Arctic shipping lanes are increasing in importance. A project which will improve the infrastructure of the Arctic is the Northern Sea Route (NSR) which may represent an alternative to the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal, both affected by political conflict.
Finally, tourism appears to be growing. "Scenic resources" or wilderness is the basis for a rapidly increasing tourist industry in several Arctic regions.
II. Activities in the Arctic region and negative consequences within
the Arctic region and globally
1. Environmental threats
Environmental problems which exist are to a large extent imported. However, acute pollution problems exist locally in many Arctic regions and some of these problems have the potential of generating wide-ranging disasters, as in the case of neglected storage of radioactive materials. Nuclear and other hazardous wastes have been, and still are
dumped in the Barents, Kara and Bering Sea areas.
Intensified searches for off-shore oil and gas form yet another threat to the Norwegian, Barents and Kara Seas.
a. Various sources of radioactivity (nuclear wastes)
Radioactive pollution in the Arctic stems from several sources in the region: nuclear power plants, testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, accidents and from storage of radioactive waste from power plants, vessels used in commercial ventures (icebreakers) and military vessels. In addition, radioactive pollution from outside the Arctic region is carried by air or by ocean currents.
The Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping Waste and other Matter (The London Dumping Convention) permits dumping of certain types of radioactive waste under special circumstances. Consequently, dumping of radioactive waste has been regularly carried out by a number of nations like Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, France and the United States of America among others, until the early 1980s. However, Russia is the major polluter as far as effects in the Arctic are concerned (problems related to the ex-Soviet military complex).
Russian dumping was mainly carried out from the late 1950s until the mid-70s, before the London Convention came into force. Radioactive waste has been dumped in the Barents Sea at least three times, the last in 1988.
But there is, however, no doubt that considerable amounts of radioactive waste have been dumped illegally. The gravity of this problem is underlined in a recent report to the Russian President, prepared by his administration (Yablokov report, 1993). This document describes the situation in the Russian north with regard to storage of radioactive waste materials and insists on the fact that "... monitoring and control over the state of radioactive objects buried at sea is practically non-existent ...".
The effects of radioactive pollution is exposure radiation, which is known to have severe effects on all living organisms, for example by damaging hereditary material. Long-living radionuclides remain in vegetation in fall-out areas for very long periods, leaving animals and people dependent on the vegetation for food, vulnerable to long-term impacts from radioactive materials.
The most critical problem with regards to radioactive pollution in the Arctic, is probably a number of reactors with nuclear fuel which have been dumped in shallow waters in the Kara Sea.
However, despite the gravity of this problem, no cases of dangerous radioactive contamination of the marine environment in the north is found thus far. Yet, even though there are no radioactive leaks until now, we do not know how stable that situation will remain. Therefore, definite proposals to solve this problem in the Barent Sea and Kola Peninsula are necessary. It is necessary to put in place a reliable system for monitoring the objects which have been dumped as well as instituting readiness procedures to deal with threats of radioactive leakage.
b. Other hazardous wastes due to industrial pollution
The levels of various heavy metals (for example mercury, cadmium) that can be measured in the air, soils, waters and bottom sediments in rivers and ocean floors stem partly from natural sources, partly from pollution.
The highest concentrations are generally found in lakes and rivers. The concentrations found in the air come from long range atmospheric transfer from industrial areas in the south. Large concentrations of heavy metals may be found, however, locally, associated especially with mining activities. Downstream in the Yienisey river, on which major mining and metal processing industries are located, the level of heavy metals are extremely high.
As far as the effects are concerned, heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, nickel and lead are very harmful to biochemical processes in mammals. They may have the strongest impact upon human populations who depend upon wildlife as an important food source.
Heavy industrial pollution in the Arctic, such as on the Kola Peninsula and around Norilsk, appears to have caused chronic health problems among northern people over surprisingly long distances compared to pollution in less Arctic regions, possibly because of particular biochemical responses to pollutants in plants and animals under Arctic conditions and the short food chain's characteristic of the Arctic.
On the other hand, persistent organic contaminants like PCBs and DDT are still widely produced and utilised, despite their being banned in many countries. These substances are highly toxic, and persistent in nature. They have been extensively used for many years, that is to say in pesticides. These persistent organic contaminants have a high potential for bioaccumulation, which means that pollution levels rise with each level in the food chains. Therefore, humans, who, for example, are the highest end of food chains, are the most vulnerable to this type of pollution. Toxic organochlorides from pesticides used in sub-tropical regions are soluble in animal fat and become concentrated in the edible animals of the Canadian Arctic, from where they are passed to humans.
In general, however, concentrations of such substances are not as high in Arctic ecosystems as in heavily polluted areas in the south, such as the Baltic Sea or the southern North Sea. Persistent organic contaminants reach the area mainly by long range transport from industrialised areas further south by the atmosphere, rivers and ocean currents.
c. Other threats
There are number of other important threats such as oil pollution, acidification, growing tourism and development of hydroelectric power projects.
As far as the oil pollution is concerned, it has several sources: vessel discharges, vessel accidents, rivers and drilling accidents. The most important source is rivers, in particular Russian rivers.
Oil pollution has more severe effects in the Arctic than in more temperate latitudes because of the two principal factors:
Firstly, periods with little or no light reduce ultraviolet radiation and combine with low temperatures to hamper biological decomposition of oil. The low temperatures also reduce evaporation of volatile petroleum components compared with more temperate regions.
Secondly, in Arctic areas the ice cover reduces the impact of waves, whereas in warmer areas, wave action is a major agent in reducing the effects of oil pollution.
The result of these phenomena is that oil decomposition is generally slow in the Arctic and thereby the period in which the ecosystem is exposed to petroleum is considerably prolonged.
Even though the accurate effects of oil spills on wildlife are generally not well understood it is obvious, however, that the effects at higher ecosystem levels are devastating.
Secondly, concerning the acidification problem, "acid rain" is a well known phenomenon also in areas far away from where the sulphuric and nitrous emissions generating it are located. Vehicle traffic and petroleum-fuelled power plants are among the major contributors here. Acid precipitation and acidification of the air in the Arctic stems generally from long-range air transport, albeit in some places with industrial development. Also local emissions are of importance.
A highly visible effect in several Arctic locations is the "Arctic haze" phenomenon which consists of cold and stable air masses and absence of precipitation which allow pollutants (sulphur, heavy metals) to accumulate, suspend particulate matter that disturbs solar radiation and strongly reduces visibility. The build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have emissions in southern latitudes as their most important source (see Appendix III).
Much of the Arctic region is especially susceptible to acidification because there are few alkaline ions in the environment to neutralise sulphates, one of the principal ingredients of the haze. However, even though the Arctic is more vulnerable than more temperate zones, the impact of acidification on Arctic ecosystems has not been studied as extensively in the Arctic as it has been in the temperate regions of Europe and North America.
Thirdly the tourism in polar areas appears to be growing. "Wildlife-tourism" or "explorer-tourism" is part of the new green element. However, organised Arctic tourism is still in its infancy and the infrastructure is in most areas virtually absent.
The excessive development of tourist facilities could have negative consequences for the environment. However, tourism will most likely play an increasing role in the economics of the north, and, in this respect, strict guidelines for the protection of the environment should be established.
Finally, the development of large-scale hydroelectric power projects in the Arctic has been subject to considerable controversy due to the high costs of the projects and the unpredictable environmental consequences.
d. Global warming and ozone depletion
The global warming is known as the "greenhouse effect". Carbon dioxide, released from, for instance, vehicle traffic and oil-fuelled power plants, is the most important greenhouse gas. It is predicted that global climate change will have its strongest influence in the polar areas. The increase in mean temperatures is likely to have far-reaching consequences for all forms of life. They cannot be quantified precisely, but we can say that:
—al l plant and animal life have adapted to certain temperature ranges and changes may cause many species to become extinct;—
—th is may entail a change in current precipitation patterns, combining with temperature change to further affect biological systems;—
—an increase in mean temperatures may cause a rise in the sea level, leaving land areas permanently under water;—
—a change in oceanic temperatures may cause ocean currents to change direction and velocity;—
—th e role of the Arctic oceans as "carbon sinks" which absorb much atmospheric carbon dioxide and thereby may play an important role in regulating the "greenhouse effect" may be affected.In
In sum, the prospects for global change within the next century indicate significant changes in the arctic environment. Changes considerably more important than any in the past several millennia and more than other parts of the world.
Those concerned with the governance and the future of the Arctic regions should not ignore this fact.
Finally, the depletion of stratospheric ozone, which is known by the "thinning of the ozone layer", is due to emission of aerosols which react chemically to reduce the amount of ozone. The phenomenon was first discovered over the Antarctic about a decade ago. Since then, it has also been observed in the northern hemisphere, particularly in the Arctic in late winter or spring.
The consequence is increased exposure to ultraviolet solar radiation on the earth's surface, which may cause considerable harm to biological growth processes. Particularly vulnerable is the primary production of plant and animal plankton in the oceans, the reduced growth of which will have serious repercussions for the entire ecosystems on which these are based.
2. Cultural and social effects of environmental changes in the Arctic
The future of the Arctic region reflects, at the same time, the future of the Arctic people, for the native populations have always lived in harmony with their environment.
That is the reason why the cultural and social effects of the environmental changes in the Arctic are mentioned. The most serious environmental change affecting native cultures is the constriction of indigenous controlled land.
Another encroachment upon indigenous land is industrial activities, such as mining, hydroelectric development and establishment of new towns including the construction of highways, railroads, pipelines and airports which restrict the movement of animals.
Physical destruction of land is a serious problem in parts of Russia, and combined with pollution it has greatly affected indigenous fishing, hunting and herding activities in, for example, Western Siberia and Kola Peninsula. Uncontrolled forestry should also be noted.
Concerning the social effects, the cultural disintegration of indigenous communities causes a social disruption and psychological stress which can have some consequences like the widespread abuse of alcohol, the high incidence of suicide, the low living standard ...
Your Rapporteur wishes to mention these elements only to underline the importance of incorporating the special needs and values of indigenous peoples into planning and development activities.
III. The need for a greater co-operation: among all Arctic states and internationally
No country in the Arctic region can escape the consequences of these environmental problems but the Nordic countries do not have the necessary resources to combat the problems in the Arctic region on their own. Therefore, large-scale international assistance and co-operation are imperative.
1. Improvement of the international atmosphere
During the Cold War the Arctic region was dominated by the strategic interests of the superpowers so that the situation in the high north has been characterised by decades of tension and closed borders.
The end of the Cold War has removed many of the obstacles to a common approach to the challenges of the Arctic.
The friendly east-west relations, the awareness of environmental degradation, governmental ambitions for closer co-operation because of the interdependence and mutual vulnerability which increasingly characterise the relations among states, and non-governmental follow-up activities are among the factors that speak in favour of an increased co-operation in the Arctic region.
Several co-operation initiatives have already been launched.
2. Political and legal co-operation for an environmental protection and an ecologically sustainable development
2.1. What has been done
a. The Arctic Environmental Protection Initiative (the Rovaniemi Process)
In January 1989, on the initiative of Finland, the eight Arctic countries met to develop a joint strategy for addressing issues of Arctic environmental protection. After two more preparatory meetings, in June 1991, in Rovaniemi, Finland, a ministerial meeting was held, adopting a ministerial declaration on the Arctic environment. The declaration adopts an Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) and commits the parties to an action plan including scientific co-operation, environmental impact assessment of economic development, and implementation of measures to reduce the adverse effect of pollutants in the Arctic.
A number of international treaties address various types of environmental problems but their relevance to the Arctic is limited in many instances. In this context, the Rovaniemi Process, which aims at building a specially tailored environmental format for the Arctic, is of particular importance.
The AEPS includes four special commitments:
— Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP)
Its primary objective is the measurement of the levels of pollutants and assessment of their effects in the Arctic environment. The priority is given to persistent organic contaminants, radioactive pollution and certain heavy metals. On the basis of AMAP, the member countries will receive reports on status and trends with regard to pollution in the Arctic and the ecosystem effects of this pollution. AMAP is going to publish the first report on the state of the Arctic environment in 1996.
— Protection of the Arctic marine environment
The Arctic countries place particularly high priority in working to strengthen the international rules relevant to marine environmental protection and in adhering to the strictest relevant international standards.
— Emergency prevention, preparedness and response in the Arctic
The objective is to improve international co-operation (mutual assistance) with the aim of minimising pollution of the Arctic marine environment as a result of the accidental release of oil or other harmful substances, such as radioactive ones.
— Conservation of Arctic fauna and flora (CAFF)
The co-operation in this field includes exchanges in research and management. The parties commit themselves to consult the International Arctic Science Committee.
b. The Barents region (the Euro-Arctic Barents Council)
The region was formally established in January 1993 under the Norwegian initiative. The Ministers for Foreign Affairs from the Nordic countries and Russia adopted a ministerial declaration setting out the goals and structure of the initiative. The Barents region is intended to be an "open-to-all" project to deal with issues that cannot be solved locally and in this sense, the European Community has also signed the declaration.
The basic idea of the Barents region is to provide a formal structure for regional co-operation in the north, following the breakdown of old political and economic structures in the east.
The ecological motivation of the project centres on the need for massive aid to the Kola region to handle the region's massive environmental problems.
The formal structure of the project consists of a Barents region council consisting of the parties' ministers for foreign affairs and a regional council comprising representatives of each of the countries and a representative of the indigenous peoples. The Barents Council is of invaluable importance; however, by nature it may be too narrow and local in structure and purpose to serve the whole region.
An important aspect of the Barents region project is that it matches trends towards regionalisation ignoring state boundaries. More than fifty such regional entities exist in Europe alone. The Baltic region, established in 1992, is one of the more significant of these.
c. Co-operation in the Baltic Sea area (the Baltic Sea Declaration)
The Baltic Sea Declaration concerns the need for an increased environmental co-operation in the Baltic Sea area and it was taken at Ronneby, Sweden, on 2 and 3 September 1990.
Substantial financial support for the protection of this area is already under way or may be expected from bilateral agreements, the programmes of the European Communities and the activities of all relevant international financial institutions, in particular: the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Nordic Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
d. The Canadian initiative for an Arctic council
Canada's proposal in 1989 to create an international Arctic council or central intergovernmental forum for the north circumpolar region was made in order to complement existing bi- or multilateral regional agreements and to promote further co-operation in the Arctic. This circumpolar Arctic council would, in some respects, complement the Nordic Council and the Euro-Arctic Barents Council.
The council is thought of as having an important role in promoting a sustainable development in the Arctic and, therefore, in helping to save the Arctic environment.
The Arctic states welcome outside countries who wish to take part in pan-Arctic co-operation.
e. The Nordic Council's International Conference (Reykjavik, 16-17 August 1993)
The Nordic Council's International Conference, held on 16 and 17 August 1993 in Reykjavik, was a forum where four main themes concerning the Arctic situation were discussed. These are: the natural resources, the environment and the development of trade and industry; the situation for the native peoples of the Arctic region; security and defence issues relating to the Arctic region and of the institutional frameworks for co-operation in the Arctic region.
The discussions concluded with the adoption of a final declaration containing recommendations to the governments of the participating countries. These recommendations concern all the different problems which were treated. However, the Nordic Council has placed a particular emphasis on the environmental issues. The conference also decided to set up a standing committee for Arctic issues.
The final document (see Appendix I) recommends, among other aspects:
—st rengthened co-operation among the Arctic states and other parties engaged in the Rovaniemi Process and its elaboration of an Arctic environmental protection strategy;—
—co ntinued support for international scientific co-operation;—
—fu rther efforts by the Arctic states to achieve consensus on the establishment of an Arctic Council;—
—fu rther international co-operation between the states concerned to promote future economic and industrial ecologically sustainable development of the Arctic region.In
In sum, it is clear that protection of the Arctic environment depends on continuity and further co-operation, not only among the eight Arctic countries but also internationally. In this sense, it would be necessary to seek further discussions with the non-Nordic countries who have interests and knowledge of the Arctic region, either bilaterally or through international organisations, such as the Council of Europe, among others. In this new area of European relations in which the confrontation and division of the past are being replaced by partnership and co-operation, the Council of Europe can efficiently support a European common policy in the Arctic region.
f. Other initiatives
Among other initiatives complementing the developments in increasing international co-operation in Arctic regions there are the organisations of indigenous peoples such the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and the Nordic Sami Council.
There are some economic initiatives like the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) which increasingly provides loans for environmental projects in the region and the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) which was launched in 1990 and finances environmental investments.
Legal co-operation: International environmental agreements
A large number of environmental agreements relevant to the Arctic are, or will soon will be, in force.
A number of treaties relate to atmospheric pollution. Among the most important is the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LTRAP) which came into force in 1983. The LTRAP is relevant to a number of the Arctic pollution problems, specifically various forms of acidification (1985 and 1988 LTRAP protocols).
Also covering atmospheric pollution is the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (in force since 1989).
In 1992 the parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed to a four-year phase out period for chlorofluorcarbons to 1996. The agreement is highly relevant in the Arctic context.
Related to air pollution also is the 1992 framework Convention on Climate Change. The member states have agreed to implement measures to reduce harmful emissions of greenhouse gases not covered by the Montreal Protocol. This convention is highly relevant to the Arctic. However, the framework convention does need further elaboration in the form of specific protocols to become more effective.
Concerning marine pollution, the Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping Waste and other Matter (the London Dumping Convention) is highly significant to the Arctic. The convention establishes two annexes. The disposal of substances listed in Annex I is prohibited, while substances in Annex II may be dumped subject to a permit being given. In Annex I, mercury, organohalogenic compounds and high-level radioactive waste is found. Low level radioactive waste and waste containing inter alia copper, zinc, cyanide and lead are listed in Annex II.
The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), which is global in scope, is relevant for the shipping of oil in Arctic waters.
There are other agreements which also address the same types of pollution problems but they have a limited geographical scope and the Arctic region is not well covered. Furthermore, the standards established, for example with regard to transportation, may not be adequate in the ecologically vulnerable Arctic context.
In case of nuclear accidents: the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency was concluded in 1986. It has a global scope, and therefore applies also to nuclear emergencies in the Arctic.
Of particular relevance also is the 1989 Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basle Convention) which was adopted to reduce transboundary movements of harmful substances. The convention has a global scope and the parties commit themselves to prohibit the export of harmful substances if the receiving state does not accept the import.
2.2. What has to be developed
Institutions should be reinforced. Even though a certain amount of overlap is inevitable, the danger of competitive institutional proliferation should, however, be avoided. In this sense, the plethora of regional initiatives and co-operation fora concerning the Arctic region should be co-ordinated in order to maximise impact and efficiency.
In order to have proper co-operation in the vital Arctic region it seems necessary to develop regional co-operation, complemented by executive government co-operation.
However, none of the existing parliamentary bodies, neither the Council of Europe nor the Nordic Council, is suitable for the future parliamentary co-operation, since they do not have the geographic extension needed.
Therefore, it might be necessary to form a new body that comprises all parliaments, governments and peoples in the region.
The number of environmental agreements relevant to the Arctic is considerable. However, on the one hand the Arctic coverage of such agreements is not always satisfactory and, on the other, the rules that are established to regulate the use of the Arctic are not sufficiently strict to offer appropriate protection to the environment. The existing environmental standards are often set too low and there is insufficient control of implementation measures.
Of the various pollution problems described in the first part of this report, three stand out as being not well covered or treated by existing regimes:
a. The handling of nuclear waste material
Existing legal instruments are probably not sufficiently restrictive and, in addition, the international rules that are established are not always complied with.
Solid radioactive waste was dumped in the Kara Sea at least until 1990, despite the fact that the USSR was (and Russia is) a party to the London dumping convention which has prohibited such dumping since 1983.
b. Atmospheric as well as marine and land based pollution of heavy metals and persistent organic contaminants are not sufficiently covered by the existing regimes. The LTRAP Convention lacks specific measures to deal with heavy metals and persistent organic contaminants. However, under the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) auspices, protocols to the LTRAP Convention covering these substances are now being negotiated.
In addition to and following a Nordic initiative, some twenty European countries have agreed; in the framework of the ECE, to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by at least 30% by 1993.
To achieve early reduction in the movement of harmful substances into the Arctic environment, the Arctic countries should commit themselves to:
—im plementing measures to reduce and/or control the use of a number of polluting substances;—
—de veloping programmes aimed at eliminating and controlling of harmful emissions;—
—ad dressing, where necessary, such issues under existing or proposed international arrangements.Th
They should also review other mechanisms for taking appropriate measures in the international forum.
In sum, the Arctic countries should initiate a systematic review of international agreements and other commitments to ensure that satisfactory consideration is given to the environment of the Arctic region.
Another problem is, as has been said in the first part of this report, that some areas of the northern oceans are outside the national 200 mile economic zones. The regime for regulating fishing on the seas and in fish stocks straddling the 200 mile zone and the high seas is deficient in several respects.
It is important, therefore, to establish an agreement on the management and control of fisheries on the sea. This was the basis for a Canadian initiative during the preparatory negotiations to the United Nations Conference for Environment and Development in 1992, to extend coastal states' rights in the management and control over high seas and straddling stocks fishing. These negotiations are now under way.
3. International scientific co-operation
3.1. Achievements and difficulties
Research and international policy on preservation of the Arctic environment generally have been slow to develop in contrast to what has been accomplished for the Antarctic. Scientific research has flourished in the Antarctic, where strategic interests have been minimal, whereas international scientific co-operation on the Arctic environment was held hostage to Cold War tensions until the late 1980's. Strategic objectives motivated much of the nationally sponsored Arctic research, even the research on environmental questions. Consequently, much of the research was classified, and the findings were kept secret.
Therefore, because of national political rivalries, strategic and military considerations, and the fact that northern governments are in the main preoccupied with the priorities in the southern, more populous parts of the country, the development of mechanisms for international co-operation in Arctic investigation has been difficult.
However, in recent years there have been two important developments which have to be mentioned: the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the Northern Sciences Network of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB/NSN).
The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) which came into being in 1990, is a non-governmental multi-subject scientific organisation whose purpose is to facilitate international co-operation and exchange of information in all kinds of scientific activities in the Arctic regions. It is undertaking a scientific audit of some elements of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme and is also developing programmes to ensure that international aid from western countries to Russia benefits the environment of the Russian Arctic. That is the case, for example, of the ISIRA Programme: International Science Initiative in the Russian Arctic.
The MAB Northern Sciences Network (NSN) is one of the regional networks of the MAB Programme, set up in 1984 to promote co-operative research programmes through the exchange of relevant information and by providing training opportunities. The member states of the NSN are the eight Arctic countries and other ones with significant research in Arctic areas.
3.2. What has to be developed
Now that the prospects for an Arctic environmental regime have significantly improved with the ending of the Cold War, it is time to provide and promote the institutional context for sponsoring further research on the Arctic, where, thanks to new technology, no part is inaccessible to scientists.
The efforts should be aimed at research areas in which broad scientific advances and Nordic and international co-operation are especially significant, such as global climate changes, environmental effects, natural resources (the international scientific co-operation is essential to resource management) and social development.
The Arctic environment has not been studied enough. More inventories of the natural environment are needed, and the consequences of new projects and developments have to be assessed.
One of the specific problems which has not been researched enough is the "Arctic haze"1 and its consequences. Therefore, further research and co-operation is necessary in order to establish international policies on emissions of the haze-forming pollutants.
IV. Europe and the Arctic region
1. The new security situation in Europe and how this should be reflected on conditions in the Arctic region
The world security situation has changed immensely during the last few years. In central and eastern Europe the changes have been profound, with implications not only in the whole of Europe but also on a global level.
Nuclear and conventional arms reduction agreements are being implemented for Europe, Russia and the United States. Now the Cold War is over, however, the Arctic security situation has not changed very much. The circumpolar north is maintained as an arena for the endless interplay of military forces, especially nuclear. There are still troops from east and west facing each other (concentration of Russian troops being removed from eastern and central Europe, to the regions bordering Finland and Norway) and the military importance of the region has increased as an area for bases and for operations by strategic submarines. Therefore, it would be necessary to prevent the Arctic from becoming a permanent preserve for nuclear weapons or for conventional arms. It would be necessary to address circumpolar environmental and economic consequences of military activity and to initiate a multinational project to clean up nuclear pollution of military origin in the Arctic. The drastic changes taking place in the past few years must lead to a decrease of military activities in the Arctic. It is necessary to look at military activities in the Arctic from an environmental point of view: military activities should not be tolerated without strict environmental controls. However, with continuous changes in political control of some former eastern nations, we have to maintain our vigilance.
The end of the Cold War and the new security conditions represent also an excellent opportunity to tackle the most acute environmental threat to the region.
For example, industrial pollution, especially from the smelting plants of the Murmansk area in the Kola Peninsula, causes serious environmental damage, not only around the plants but also in the neighbouring countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden). Immediate action should be taken to minimise the effects of this pollution before it is too late.
The nuclear power plants in the Kola Peninsula can cause a threat to the Arctic environment (Russia and the neighbouring countries) because of their unsatisfactory condition. In case of an accident the effects could be disastrous. The plants need to be modernised urgently and more attention should be paid to the storing of radioactive waste.
According to several scientific reports the global changing of the climate may have serious effects on the environment of the northern countries within a short period. Therefore, more research is needed. International co-operation is essential in order to solve the problems properly and quickly, since individual countries do not have the necessary resources alone.
2. Implications of developments in the Arctic region for Europe and vice-versa: the need for a European common policy in the Arctic region
The Arctic region plays a vital role, for what happens there has consequences for Europe and for the whole world. A few aspects have already been mentioned in this report, like the global importance of stratospheric ozone depletion in the Arctic region, the response of the Arctic climate to the increase of greenhouse gases, or the Arctic as a repository for persistent and far-travelled industrial pollutants that affect the global environment. The Arctic regions are important to Europe and the world in ways that far surpass the transitory importance of its oil, gold, whales or ivory, for example. On the other hand, what happens in Europe also has an influence in the Arctic. The release of nuclear substances, for example, in the waters off Great Britain have repercussions in the Arctic, as have the emission of sulphuric acid from industrial processes in central Europe. Political and economic integration in western Europe and developments in eastern and central Europe also affect the Nordic region.
To sum up, it is necessary, to take into account the interests and needs of the Arctic region in shaping European developments. In addition to what we underline in the recommendations, particular emphasis has to be placed on the need to find ways of combining respect for the vulnerable Arctic environment with the exploitation of natural resources. Actually, one of the more important long-term questions for the region concerns economic exploitation, and possible conflicts of interests connected with developments in this field. Consequently, there is a need for co-operation regarding the exploitation of resources in order to avoid conflicts between states in the region. The problem is, however, that contrary to the situation in the Antarctic, developments in the Arctic Sea are not regulated in any international political agreements. Would it be a possible solution to take as an example the Antarctic system ?
The Arctic region represents one of the last frontiers of relatively pristine nature. However, the Arctic is still considered as a frontier for industrial expansion and for extraction of non-renewable resources.
The understanding which has reached the tropical forests for the need to conserve the world's biological diversity has not reached the Arctic tundra and taiga2.
Yet the Arctic is highly vulnerable to pollution. With the low, self-repairing capacity of the Arctic environment, almost all types of mining operations, hydroelectric and petroleum developments are likely to have irreversible effects.
Roads and airfields are built, mining shafts developed, huge areas are left under water and large dumps established, to mention a few examples.
This causes the vegetation to disappear or change, and in areas with permafrost the removal of vegetation leads, for instance, to increased erosion, as in Iceland for example.
The building of dams and roads destroy wildlife, causing distress to animal populations. In many instances the loss or reduction of habitat is the greatest threat to animal populations.
Therefore, it would be necessary to encourage and promote the development of a network of environmentally protected areas.
However, practically all pollution has its origins outside the Arctic and because pollution knows no borders, the Arctic is already threatened by the increased human impact on our common globe.
This underlines the importance of our shared concern and the need to promote and support protective measures.
It is not enough simply to have co-operation among the Arctic states. It is also necessary to have international co-operation on Arctic affairs which should include, among other things:
—nu clear disarmament in the Arctic Ocean and the prevention of radioactive pollution from other oceanic regions; —
—su stainable development where pollution and other disturbances are kept to a minimum;—
—an increased and shared knowledge of nature and natural resources through scientific research; —
—na tural resources through scientific research.B.
B. The Antarctic
I. Environmental situation in the Antarctic
1. Antarctica's natural environment
With an area of over 13,5 million square kilometres, the continent of Antarctica makes up almost 10% of the planet's emerged land. Covered by a sheet of ice that has an average thickness of two kilometres, it is the largest reservoir of freshwater on the planet, accounting for 80% of world reserves, and plays a key role in determining the global climate by regulating temperature patterns and the flow of atmospheric and marine currents.
Without the Antarctic Ocean, which surrounds the continent and extends northwards to the Antarctic, a veritable hydrological barrier that separates it from the neighbouring oceans, no life would be possible on the continent. The extremely harsh climate prevents almost all animal or plant life in the interior of the continent, and such life is concentrated in the maritime regions along the coast and on the islands and archipelagos. The ocean and continent both, therefore, belong to the same fragile and unique ecosystem.
Plant life is almost completely absent or is reduced to its simplest form of mosses, lichens and algae. But the seas are among the richest in the world in terms of marine flora and, in particular, plankton, which forms the basis of the aquatic food chain. Over-exploitation of plankton could therefore seriously threaten Antarctica's entire marine ecosystem.
Animal life is almost totally dependent, either directly or indirectly, on the marine environment. It is thus extremely limited in the interior, where only a few species of insects are found. In addition to the countless different invertebrates, marine animal life is particularly extensive. It includes the last blue whales, a large population of seals and species of fish that are remarkably well adapted to life in these extremely harsh climatic conditions. However, the main element in the marine fauna are krill (euphasia superba), small shrimp-like creatures that form the key link in the food chain of the Antarctic ecosystem. Even though the stocks of krill are large, it is nevertheless important to avoid their over-exploitation. Moreover, several kinds of fish such as skate, herring, cod, etc., are also threatened by the risk of overfishing.
Mineral resources do exist, and are varied. However, their scale can only be estimated, as there are many difficulties involved in prospecting, exploration and, above all, exploitation which, in any case, would not be profitable at present.
The main terrestrial mineral resources are coal and iron. Prospecting carried out in the region suggests that there are also deposits of copper and molybdenum,3 but in small concentrations. The nickel, chromium and cobalt deposits are thought to be among the largest in the world. Traces of uranium, thorium,4 gold, silver, beryl and rock crystal have also been found. There are many indications that Antarctica has large quantities of high-grade mineral deposits, but the current state of technology does not allow for more detailed estimates. As far as marine mineral resources are concerned, it is thought that tens of billions of barrels of oil and 3,35 thousand million cubic metres of natural gas could be extracted from the continental shelf of western Antarctica. Significant concentrations of manganese nodules are also found around the 60th parallel south.
2. Human activities: threats and consequences
— The Antarctic ecosystem is fragile and is thus particularly sensitive to the impact of human activities.
It is thought that the most serious threats to Antarctica's environment would be posed by prospecting for, and exploiting, mineral resources on both land and sea. This would involve developments which environmental groups have already said should not be allowed.
— Apart from the negative consequences of the possible exploitation of the continent's mineral resources, the development of human activities in Antarctica, such as an increase in the number of scientific bases with their logistic support facilities,5 an expansion of tourism and an intensification of shipping traffic, would increase local pollution and waste levels, thus damaging the environment and disturbing animal populations.
The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research is examining the question of waste disposal and accidental pollution linked to research activities in Antarctica, for instance the risk of the spillage of fuels and lubricants.
— Scientists believe the ecosystem of the Antarctic Ocean to be more stable than the land environment, insofar as the ocean acts as a buffer zone that prevents the spread of pollution from further north.
However, a major incident of accidental pollution, for instance involving hydrocarbons, could have serious consequences for the global environment. The grounding of the Argentinean supply ship Bahia Paraiso in January 1989, which caused the first oil slick in Antarctica, should be seen as a warning in this respect.
— As regards waste discharged into the Antarctic Ocean, there is currently no comprehensive means of assessing the volume concerned.
In addition to local pollution, there is also "imported" pollution: Antarctica has not escaped the spread throughout the world of chlorinated hydrocarbons such as DDT, as has been shown by analysis of snow, ice, air and water from the continent. According to the available information, the concentration of pesticides and other chlorinated hydrocarbons in the Antarctic Ocean is lower than in the northern hemisphere. The research stations are believed to be responsible for some of the local pollution. The presence of weak concentrations of these compounds in Antarctica could also be the result of the effects of atmospheric and ocean currents.
As far as radionuclides are concerned, unusually high levels of polonium -210 and lead -210 have been found in the marine biota of the Antarctic Ocean. No generally accepted explanation for this phenomenon yet exists.
In the case of marine biological resources, there is concern that overfishing of krill could affect the stocks of species that feed on them. Some fish populations are also declining because of overfishing. A number of protection measures, including a system for recording catches, have been adopted to protect the populations concerned.
Uncontrolled fishing of large quantities of krill and fish therefore poses the most direct threat to the Antarctic ecosystem, the biological processes being slower because of the low temperatures. At the same time, seals, whales and seabirds are caught accidentally and killed during fishing or in lost or abandoned nets.
Another threat comes from tourism. To date, its impact has been small because there is no tourist infrastructure. But tourism in Antarctica has been expanding rapidly in recent years,6 despite the limited number of tours offered, mainly by Argentinean and Chilean travel firms (Chile has opened a hotel near its base). The problem is that neither the Antarctic Treaty nor the 1991 Protocol to the Treaty lays down regulations governing tourist activities. Tourism could, however, be harmful to the Antarctic ecosystem if it continues to develop in an uncontrolled manner.
Air pollution is relatively limited in the region because Antarctica is far from the main sources of industrial pollution and is also protected by some atmospheric currents. However, measurements carried out in recent years have shown that the atmosphere in Antarctica has been affected by pollutants such as carbon dioxide, synthetic halocarbons, aerosols, sulphur dioxide and radioactive substances from industries located in the northern hemisphere.
The depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer above Antarctica offers startling proof of mankind's impact on the continent's environment. Industrial CFCs, which play a large part in depleting the ozone layer, are still widely used in refrigerants, the production of polystyrene foams for insulation material and the manufacture of industrial solvents. The Montreal Protocol, which came into force on 1 January 1989, limits the production of CFCs and other suspect products in the thirty-one signatory states, but it will not be easy to get rid of these products as their lifespan is around a hundred years.
The depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer could have disastrous consequences for Antarctica's aquatic environment. The increase in ultraviolet radiation as a result of ozone depletion could affect the Antarctic phytoplankton,7 which is a key link in the continent's food chain.
Tests of ice cores from Antarctica have shown an increased concentration in the air of carbon dioxide, one of the main contributors to the "greenhouse effect". If the entire Antarctic ice sheet (inlandsis) were to melt, this could raise ocean levels by up to sixty metres. Although less catastrophic, more limited melting could also have a considerable impact on sea levels throughout the world.
II. The legal framework: the Antarctic system
1. Overview of the legislation (see Appendix IV)
The "Antarctic Treaty" is the term used to describe the Antarctic Treaty and the associated series of regulations and conventions. The Washington Treaty is evolutionary in nature. It is a framework treaty under which legislation is derived from the recommendations adopted by the consultative meetings.
The recommendations ensure that the treaty is implemented. They are adopted by consensus and, in order to be applicable, must be unanimously approved by the governments of the consultative powers in the form of domestic laws or statutory orders.
However, the recommendations do more than just implement the provisions of the treaty. In some cases, they have led to new conventions that go beyond the treaty. Three such conventions have been adopted: in London in 1972, Canberra in 1980 and Wellington in 1988.
Following the adoption in 1991 of the Protocol to the Atlantic Treaty, the region is now covered by the strictest environmental legislation set out in any international treaties in the world. The protection of the Antarctic environment is thus governed by the Antarctic Treaty of 1 December 1959, the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (1964), the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972), known as the London Convention, and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980), known as the Canberra Convention.
More recently, the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (1988), known as the Wellington Convention, and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991), known as the Madrid Protocol, have shown that the legal instruments are increasingly focusing on environmental protection as an end in itself and their provisions are becoming more specific and detailed.
The 1991 Madrid Protocol means that the Wellington Convention no longer serves any purpose.
2. The Antarctic Treaty (Washington Treaty)
The Antarctic Treaty, which was signed in Washington on 1 December 1959, is open for accession by all states without restriction and entered into force on 23 June 1961. It covers the continental shelf and ice sheet south of latitude 60o south.
2.1. Principles and objectives
The treaty stipulates that Antarctica may only be used for peaceful purposes with a view to developing scientific research through co-operation between states.
The preservation of peace is a sine qua non for the development of such co-operation. To this end, the treaty "freezes" the territorial claims of the "claimant states"8 by confirming the status quo without refuting or recognising the states' territorial claims.
The treaty also stipulates that Antarctica should be demilitarised and should be a nuclear-free zone. All military activity is banned. Nevertheless, the treaty does not prevent the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific work or any other peaceful purpose.
Nuclear explosions are banned in Antarctica, as is the disposal of radioactive waste material in the region. However, these two points may be amended if other international agreements on these matters are accepted by all the consultative parties to the Antarctic Treaty.
Lastly, the treaty guarantees continued freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and international co-operation towards that end.
— The Antarctic Treaty is intended to further the purposes and principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations. There has thus been long-standing co-operation between the United Nations and the Antarctic Treaty system. The question of Antarctica has, for instance, been raised at every general assembly of the United Nations since 1982. Some United Nations members with no direct interests in, or links with, Antarctica have criticised the closed and exclusive nature of the Antarctic Treaty system. There have been many calls for Antarctica to be declared part of mankind's common heritage and placed under United Nations control so that the exploitation of its natural resources may benefit the international community as a whole rather than remaining the "private hunting ground" of a limited group of countries.
The parties to the Antarctic Treaty have refuted these proposals, pointing out that the treaty states that it is "open for accession by any state which is a member of the United Nations".
The Washington Treaty did not create any permanent structures. It merely provides for ordinary meetings at regular intervals, organised in turn by the consultative parties, at which issues concerning the general functioning of the treaty are discussed, and extraordinary meetings, dealing with specific issues, to which all interested parties are invited.
It also provides a monitoring mechanism for the system, known as international inspection. This plays an essential role in ensuring that the treaty is implemented and its objectives achieved. The right to inspect is reserved for the consultative parties to the treaty. Any state wishing to carry out inspections appoints observers of its own choice, who are subject only to the jurisdiction of the state of which they are nationals. The monitoring system therefore depends on co-operation and trust between the parties and on the reciprocity of their inspection rights. It serves a dissuasive purpose rather than issuing sanctions.
It ensures effective monitoring of the activities of the treaty parties by providing an exchange of information. The system is, in fact, exemplary, as it is the first instance of international monitoring of a demilitarised zone being carried out directly by states.
3. Scientific research and environmental protection in the Antarctic system
3.1. Scientific research
As stated above, the Washington Treaty provides that Antarctica should be used for international co-operation in scientific research.
This co-operation involves the exchange of information on scientific programmes and on their results and observations. The treaty also provides for exchanges of scientific personnel between expeditions and stations in the region and for organisational co-operation within specific institutions.
Individual activities of the Contracting Parties
It would seem that more activities are conducted separately alongside one another than jointly in international teams. It is true that Antarctica, particularly the eastern part of the continent, is vast, and that communication between teams working there is extremely difficult. But there are also bases only a few miles apart, for instance in Graham Land, which operate as "closed circuits" in almost complete isolation. Apart from a few exceptions, we are, therefore, still a long way from the international bases where, according to the letter and spirit of the treaty, co-operation between states should take place. Research activities in Antarctic bases thus still have to be looked at in the national context.
Although no international station exists and co-operation is largely confined to the exchange of the results of scientific work, it cannot be denied that frequent exchanges of personnel do take place between the various bases.
In addition, the Antarctic Treaty encourages co-operation with the specialised agencies of the United Nations and other international governmental or non-governmental organisations that have a scientific or technical interest in Antarctica. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research occupies a particularly important place here.
Co-operation with international organisations is now beginning to expand, despite a slow start.
3.2. Environmental protection
The Washington Treaty did not mention the question of environmental protection, apart from inviting the parties to agree measures regarding the "preservation and conservation of living resources in Antarctica".
The response has come in the many recommendations (over fifty) adopted by the consultative meetings and in the three conventions: the 1972 London Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, the 1980 Canberra Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, both of which are already in force, and the Wellington Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities, which has been superseded by the 1991 Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection.
The environmental protection measures are almost all preventive in nature and include provisions for enforcement. They are essentially designed to prevent pollution, but also serve to protect the continent's natural beauty and historic sites. The anti-pollution measures concern air and water pollution and the accumulation of waste material from human activity. Accordingly, there are regulations on waste disposal and the creation of protected areas, specially protected areas and sites of special scientific interest.
The continent's natural beauty and historic sites are protected by recommendations that regulate tourism, establish protected sites and prohibit certain activities.
In 1964, Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora were adopted. These have been implemented through domestic legislation or statutory orders, with provision for prosecution in the event of violations.
The conservation of biological resources has been covered by a large number of recommendations and also by the London and Canberra Conventions.
— The 1972 London Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals prohibits the capturing or killing of seals in the area it covers. Special permits may, however, be issued on the basis of precise criteria and in accordance with conditions agreed by common accord. However, the authorised catch quotas are based on approximate estimates of the populations and do not take account of local factors.
— The 1980 Canberra Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources covers not only fish, mollusca and shellfish, but also all other living maritime species, including the birds found south of the 60th parallel. However, although the convention sets out the conditions for rational and controlled use of Antarctica's living resources, it has not prevented local overfishing of certain species, which has seriously upset local ecosystems.
The problem of the exploitation of mineral resources was not covered by the Washington Treaty, as the possibility of such exploitation was deemed to be highly unlikely at the time. The Wellington Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities thus fills a legal vacuum. Although adopted on 2 June 1988 and opened for signature on 25 November 1988, it has come in for very serious criticism from environmental associations. While the aim of the provisions is to limit the inevitable damage that mining in Antarctica would cause, in fact the Wellington Convention opened the way for such mining by providing a legal framework. Although ratification by Australia and France was essential, (entry into force was subject to ratification by sixteen consultative parties), the two countries have not ratified the convention, and it has not therefore entered into force. Moreover, it no longer serves any purpose following the adoption of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
III. The 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty
The Protocol, which was signed in Madrid on 4 October 1991 by twenty-three of the twenty-six consultative parties,9 prohibits the activities which the Wellington Convention attempted to regulate. It supplements the treaty, without either modifying or amending it. It is not confined to the continent of Antarctica, but covers the whole treaty area, that is the entire region south of 60o south.
Under the Protocol, it is no longer a question of adopting limited environmental protection measures to deal with specific requirements. The parties undertake to ensure comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems.
—de signates Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science;—
—se ts out principles for environmental protection;—
—is accompanied by four annexes which form an integral part of the text and whose provisions have the same legal force.An
Annex I covers environmental impact assessment and sets out the procedure that must be followed before any activity is commenced or modified.
Annex II contains measures on the conservation of wildlife in Antarctica.
Annex III deals with waste disposal and management and prohibits the introduction of certain products into the region.
Annex IV concerns the prevention of marine pollution.
A fifth annex was adopted as a recommendation at the 16th Consultative Meeting in October 1991.10 It divides the various types of protected area created at the different consultative meetings into two major categories: firstly, areas specially protected because
of their natural beauty or scientific, historic, or environmental interest, where entry is
subject to the granting of permits, and, secondly, specially managed areas that are covered by management plans.
Further annexes will be drafted and incorporated in the Protocol without the need for a new ratification procedure. They will include namely an annex regulating activities concerning tourism activities and one setting out rules on liability for damage resulting from activities in the treaty area. Unfortunately, there is no precise timetable for such negotiations which would take place as soon as possible, due to the fact that the tourism constitutes an increasing crucial problem.
The Protocol bans activities relating to mineral resources: "Any activity relating to mineral resources, other than scientific research, shall be prohibited". This ban lasts for fifty years. It may, however, be lifted during this period by unanimous agreement of the consultative parties to the Antarctic Treaty. Beyond the fifty-year period, it may be lifted in accordance with a procedure set out in the Protocol.
The ban will continue unless there is in force a binding legal regime on [Antarctic] mineral resource activities that includes an agreed means for determining whether, and, if so, under which conditions, any such activities would be acceptable.
Information and co-operation
All parties are required to report annually on the steps they have taken.
The parties are invited to co-operate by exchanging information, consulting each other, undertaking joint expeditions and sharing the use of their bases and facilities. They also undertake to co-operate in emergency response action in the event of environmental emergencies.
The institutional system provided for in the Protocol is based on the consultative meetings, a committee for environmental protection comprising representatives of all parties to the Protocol and whose role will merely be advisory, and individual inspections. Compared with the Washington Treaty, the innovation is that the observers may be appointed not only by parties to the treaty but also by the consultative meetings. However, the consultative parties rejected the idea of an international monitoring and inspection mechanism.
Designed as a flexible instrument to respond to changing environmental needs, the Madrid Protocol marks the dawn of a new era in the protection of Antarctica. It will enter into force on the thirtieth day following the date of deposit of instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession by all states which are Antarctic Treaty consultative parties at the date on which the Protocol is adopted.
Lastly, the complexity and scope of the problems involved and the need for effective action seem to have convinced most parties that a small and unbureaucratic centralised secretariat is required. Such a secretariat would encourage communication between the parties. However, no agreement has yet been reached in this connection.
IV. Europe and the conservation of Antarctica
The long-term survival of mankind depends to a large part on the success of efforts to protect Antarctica. We must therefore continue to give strong support to international co-operation in the continent and encourage states that have not yet done so to become parties to the Antarctic Treaty system.
The freeze on territorial claims contained in Article 4 of the Antarctic Treaty must be maintained and all activities that could generate commercial rivalries should be limited and strictly controlled. To this end, we must strive to ensure that the fifty-year ban on mineral resource activities in Antarctica and the surrounding waters is made permanent. Any exploitation of the mineral resources would probably have irreversible consequences for the fragile Antarctic ecosystem. Moreover, such exploitation would create political and economic problems. Political problems would arise because the freezing of territorial claims, which is essential to the maintenance of peace in the region, could be jeopardised by the problem of ownership of the resources discovered and exploited. And there would be economic problems because, quite apart from the huge investments required, the appearance on the international market of these resources could upset the balance between supply and demand, which would be extremely damaging to producer countries, in particular the developing nations. Moreover, there is an overabundance of known reserves of oil and minerals at planetary level. At the same time, all experts are recommending that we reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.
Limited and strictly controlled exploitation of Antarctica's natural resources (krill and fish) should be encouraged. To this end, we must promote research on Antarctic ecosystems, as we know too little about how marine food chains work and about the role played by key species. We are unaware, for instance, of the actual impact of tourism on the living resources. As a potential boom industry, tourism obviously poses a serious threat to the Antarctic environment. Measures aimed at imposing strict limits and controls on tourism in Antarctica must therefore be encouraged. For this reason, the annex on the regulation of tourist activities to the 1991 Madrid Protocol should be negotiated as quickly as possible. Regulation of the activities of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Antarctica would also be desirable.
Currently, however, the human presence in Antarctica mainly involves scientific activities, and waste disposal and pollution risks are more closely related to the activity of the research stations than to any other human activity. In the interests of mankind as a whole, the continent should continue to be used solely for scientific research, but we must limit the damage the latter can cause to the environment. We must encourage increased co-operation and collaboration between the Antarctic Treaty consultative parties, so as to keep the number of scientific bases, the duplication of efforts and the amount of logistic support facilities, to a minimum. To that end, we must encourage the formation and implementation of joint, long-term scientific programmes so as to avoid overlapping research. Under-used bases should also be closed, and the creation of international scientific bases for multinational research teams should be promoted.
The adoption of the Madrid Protocol demonstrates that the Antarctic Treaty system is a dynamic structure that will continue to play a positive role. All European Antarctic Treaty parties have signed the Madrid Protocol. It must now be ratified and enter into force as quickly as possible.
The ban on military and nuclear activities and the freezing of territorial claims have proved successful. With the adoption of the Protocol, the same success should now be achieved in terms of environmental protection. As already stated, the Protocol adopts a comprehensive approach that goes beyond the limited, individual actions taken to date in the field. The Protocol establishes an all-embracing mechanism for protecting the Antarctic environment, extending from the moment activities are planned to the moment they are completed and indeed beyond: impact assessment, inspection and monitoring, settlement of disputes and possibilities for establishing liability are essential.
Negotiations are to be held on an annex to the Protocol concerning the rules on liability for damage arising from activities taking place in the Antarctic Treaty area. As far as the degree of liability is concerned, it might be advisable to adopt the principle of absolute liability.11
Lastly, support should be given to the creation of an Antarctic Treaty secretariat which, while avoiding excessive bureaucracy, would underpin and facilitate the functioning of the Antarctic Treaty system. The Treaty consultative parties should also establish monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection.
Antarctica is of tremendous importance to the international community, particularly in terms of international peace and security, the environment, the global climate and scientific research. There is significant interplay between Antarctica and the physical, chemical and biological processes on which the entire global system depends. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992 recognised Antarctica's value as a site for essential scientific research, in particular as regards our understanding of the global environment.
It is over thirty years since the Washington Treaty, setting out the status of Antarctica, was signed. At the time there were twelve parties; now there are forty. Other states must be encouraged to accede to the Treaty as soon as possible. However, who will push this forward?
Considerable progress has been achieved in the fields of scientific research, international co-operation and the protection of the Antarctic environment and ecosystem. The system operates by means of recommendations adopted unanimously by the parties to the Treaty, which has been supplemented by conventions, for instance on the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources (Canberra, 1980). The third convention, concerning mineral resource activities (Wellington, 1988) has not been ratified.
These conventions have now been superseded by the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. In designating Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science and imposing a fifty-year ban on mineral resource activity, the Protocol demonstrates the scale of the change in public opinion and in government policies as regards environmental protection.
Together with the original text, all the above-mentioned provisions form an extremely useful set of regulations for Antarctica. For that reason, they must be maintained, supported and strengthened, despite the criticisms made and the system involved.
Reporting committee: Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities.
Budgetary implications for the Assembly: none.
Reference to committee : Doc. 6240 and Reference No. 1682 of 3 July 1990.
Draft recommendation and draft resolution adopted by the committee on 1 March 1994.
Members of the committee: Mr Parisi (Chairman) (Alternate: Foschi), Ruffy, Lord Newall (Vice-Chairmen), MM. Alemyr, Bachna, Bernardini, Gudmundur Bjarnason, Mrs Blunck, MM. Bonrepaux, Brennan (Alternate: Gregory), Briane, Büchel, Mrs Ciemniak, MM. Demiralp, Dimmer, Mrs Dromberg, MM. Eversdijk (Alternate: Eisma), Feldmann, Ferrarini (Alternate: Guzzetti), Frunda, Mrs Graenitz, MM. Granstedt, Graui Bulda, Hadjidemetriou, Hardy, Jung, Mrs Kaliska, MM. Korakas, Koulouris, Kukk, Lanner, Lie, Lotz, Meszaros, Monfils, Motiu, Mozetic, Pinto, Pozela, Redmond, Reis Leite, Mrs Robert, Mr Rubner, Mrs Sanchez de Miguel (Alternate: Mr Bolinaga), Mr Sarens, Mrs Severinsen, MM. Spacek, Szymanski, Talay, Toshev, Tummers (Alternate: Dees), Vella, Zierer.
N.B. The names of those who took part in the vote are printed in italics.
Secretaries to the committee: Mrs Cagnolati-Staveris and Mr Sich.
1 1"Arctic haze" phenomenon: cold an stable air masses and the absence of precipitation allow pollutants (sulphur, heavy metals) to accumulate, and suspended particulate matter disturbs solar radiation and strongly reduces visibility.
2 1The coniferous forests, composed chiefly of spruces, pines, and firs, in the northern hemisphere in subpolar latitudes. It extends from Norway across Sweden, Finland, and the Soviet Union (including Siberia). The oviferous forests of North America, Canada, and Alaska, are also known as taiga.
3 1A very hard silvery-grey metal, used in the production of high-strength steels and in high-temperature filaments.
4 2 2. Naturally occurring radioactive metal.
5 1One example is the construction of an airstrip at the French research station in Adélie Land. The Adélie coast is home to an extremely wide range of fauna whose habitat has been partly destroyed by the airstriop, and which environmental associations claim is going to be even more seriously disturbed when the airstrip comes into service in 1994.
6 1 1. Over 6 000 visitors a year.
7 2Phytoplankton: a flora of freely floating minute organisms that drift with water currents. Like land vegetation, phytoplankton uses carbon dioxide, releases oxygen, and converts minerals to a form animals can use. In fresh water, large numbers of green algae often colour lakes and ponds, and blue-green algae may affect the taste of drinking water.
Ocean phytoplankton is the primary food source, directly or indirectly, of all sea organisms.
8 1Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom (see Annex 5, p. 49).
9 1Three parties (Korea, Japan, India) have yet to sign but have indicated their willingness to do so.
10 2The most recent consultative meeting (the 17th) was held in Venice from 11 to 20 November 1992.
11 1As in the Council of Europe's European Convention on Civil Liability for Damage Resulting from Activities Dangerous to the Environment.