25 October, 2012

On the 23rd October, Neil Carmichael MP hosted an Antarctic Reception at the House of Commons to promote the Antarctic Bill, which has its second reading in Parliament on the 2nd November. Over 50 explorers, scientists, business people as well as MPs and peers from across the political parties attended the event, which was sponsored by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. Speakers included Philippa Foster Back, the Chairman of the UKAHT — whose grandfather was the geologist on Robert Falcon Scott’s 1912 expedition, and Paul Rose, modern day polar explorer, diver and TV presenter.

Map of Antarctica with the flags of the Antarctic Treay nations. Accurate for Feb 2012 (49 nations). Inner ring are the original 12 signatory nations, central ring are the remaining consultative nations and outer ring are the non-consultative nations.

The UK is one of seven countries who have a claim to the Antarctic, and was the first sign the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, and is an international leader in Antarctic science and political affairs. The Antarctic Bill will put Antarctic Treaty environmental regulations into law and will ensure the “polluter pays” for damage to the Antarctic environment. The Bill will also strengthen the UK’s leadership position by ensuring that the continent remains as the world’s last great wilderness and a natural reserve devoted to peace and science. Current concerns are the rapid increase in visitors coming to Antarctica and their safety and environmental impact, the effects of climate change, and pressure on marine ecosystems in the Southern Ocean from fishing for finfish and krill.

BAS’s Dr John Shears is a technical adviser to the UK Government on development of the Antarctic Treaty, and attended the Antarctic Reception. He said,

“This Private Members Bill will help underpin the UK’s obligations to the Antarctic Treaty through new environmental legislation. It will further protect the Antarctic environment by improving emergency planning, help preserve British heritage in Antarctica — such as the historic huts built by Captain Robert Scott and Sir Ernest Shackelton, and improve the current permitting system for UK expeditions and scientific activities in the region.”