Chile to participate in Antarctic Treaty meeting

Representatives of the Foreign Ministry are participating in a meeting on the Antarctic Treaty. France hosts the event which takes place online until June 24. Chile will submit suggestions to improve Antarctic governance and stipulate research.

Chile’s Foreign Ministry will have two representatives participating in the 43rd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting. The meeting, scheduled for June 14-24, takes place on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the treaty entering force and is hosted by France.

Rodrigo Waghorn, director of the Chilean Foreign Ministry’s Antarctica department, and Marcelo Leppe, who heads the Chilean Antarctic Institute, are the main meeting participants. They are accompanied by representatives from the defense and the environmental ministries, according to a Foreign Ministry press release.

Chile’s Contributions

The participants will reinforce Chile’s commitment to fight climate change and present an update on the installation of the climate change observatory, which will be “at the service of the international community,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Chile will also detail its Antarctic Law and a state policy on Antarctic tourism, among others.

The Foreign Ministry added that Chile has already submitted 20 documents this year, aimed at regulating Antarctic tourism, and analyzing the impacts of climate change and the pandemic on the white continent.

The Meeting

The consultative meeting involves 54 state parties and aims at coordinating measures to “ensure compliance with the principles and objectives of the Antarctic Treaty and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty,” France’s Foreign Ministry said in a press release.

Measures involve stipulating research, scientific cooperation, and mutual inspection as defined under the treaty. The meeting also facilitates cooperation on jurisdiction and environmental protection, the ministry added.

Promises Kept?

On June 23, 1959, the 12 treaty founding members, among them Chile, signed the Antarctic Treaty. It entered force in 1961. Over time, 42 more countries joined.

Signees are committing to refrain from excessive economic exploitation and prohibit several, if not all, military activities, specifically nuclear testing.

Most parties have kept these promises, which is why multilateralists see the treaty as a success. But this view is increasingly hard to sustain. Economic and military activities have been limited because of the harsh environmental conditions.

Military strategists and governments will be tempted by the material promises of Antarctica as they become accessible due to climate change. While democratic internationalist governments will find it hard to explain to their publics and investors why Antarctic resources should remain untouched, authoritarian governments won’t even hesitate to take an advantage.

Systemic pressures can already be glimpsed in Argentina’s Antarctic policy. Buenos Aires claims vast areas that belong to Chile. And countries like China, Russia, and the US (including its allies) will deal with even higher stakes.

Participants of the consultative meeting ignore this military and economic potential at the peril of  Antarctica.

Antarctic Ice Melt could reach critical levels by 2060

Ocean Protection

In other news, Chile has last week approved its Ocean program to step up protection of marine areas. This initiative gathered steam under the last Bachelet administration’s foreign minister, Heraldo Muñoz.

At a webinar during World Ocean Day, Foreign Minister Andrés Allamand said according to a press release “if one looks at the entire panorama of organizations that focus on the oceans, it is almost impossible to find an important initiative in which Chile does not have a significant role.” He added, “this is a [national] legacy we must keep insisting on.”

Yet, policymakers and analysts must yet explain how the marine protection initiative squares with Chile’s aggressive and celebrated push toward more free trade – which relies on highly polluting and destructive sea transport.

Antarctic Troubles Ahead

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