Climate Action in the Antarctic Treaty System: Responding to the Madrid Protocol and the contemporary crisis

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Though the Madrid Protocol states that “activities in the Antarctic Treaty area shall be planned and conducted so as to avoid adverse effects on climate or weather patterns,” the response of Antarctic Treaty Parties has been anaemic, and certainly not sufficient to the climate crisis at hand. This article traces the development of a formal climate response beginning with the Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts on Climate Change in 2010, and the subsequent Climate Change Response Work Program and Subsidiary Group on Climate Change Response. Climate work in the ATS has been energetic among a few leading Parties and individuals; however, this work has been increasingly stymied in recent years. Responses to meet the moment require some institutional changes within the ATS, such as representative intersessional work, the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts in environmental impact assessment, assessing existing tools in the Madrid Protocol to strengthen climate resilience, and more transparent reporting, as well as broader and deeper engagement and serious action to meet the moment: including aligning Antarctic activities to Paris Agreement goals and setting, and adhering to, an ambitious carbon reduction target.

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