Published 15th October 2021

Klaus Dodds on “Saving Antarctica! The UK, Polar Friendships, and the Protocol on Environmental Protection (1991)”

In a new report, Klaus Dodds of Royal Holloway University explores the diplomatic negotiations behind the signing of the Environmental Protocol for its 30th anniversary this year.

This report provides an analysis and evaluation of the collapse of support for Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA) and the subsequent adoption of the Protocol on Environment Protection in 1991. As we approach the 30th anniversary of that adoption, it is a timely opportunity to reflect on what triggered the breakdown in consensus in the Antarctic Treaty System and how the relevant parties compromised and recovered consensus. Methods of analysis include interviews with some of the British, Norwegian, and American diplomats and scientists involved in the negotiations at the time as well as primary source material from newspapers, magazines and recorded interviews and testimonies of those holding relevant posts. Some further material was obtained from secondary sources.

The report finds that there are lessons to be learnt about how polar diplomacy works, and how UK decision-makers had to respond to a changing media and political environment which meant that their decisions (and policy preferences) were under greater scrutiny than ever before. In the new era of ‘zoom diplomacy’, the report shows that the importance of face-to-face diplomacy has not diminished nor has the significance of long-standing and close bilateral relationships by the UK with allies such as Norway, United States and Australia.

Click the link below to read the full report.

Saving Antarctica! The UK, Polar Friendships, and the Protocol on Environmental Protection (1991)