The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest ice mass on Earth. It is home to Emperor penguins, a species that Germany has now called for to be afforded special protection at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Prague. In addition, Antarctica is to remain permanently free of military activities while mineral resources may only be used for research purposes. Since 1959, Germany, together with 53 other countries in the Antarctic Treaty, has committed itself to these principles and has been working to implement them and flesh them out. Sixty years after the Treaty was signed, the Consultative Parties have now reaffirmed their commitments in the Prague Declaration.
Germany wants to protect Antarctica
The impact of climate change was high up on the agenda in Prague. Together with the UK, Germany also put the difficult situation of the Emperor penguins on the agenda in Prague. This species is potentially threatened by global climate change as the number of suitable marine breeding sites is forecast to shrink. The Federal Government has therefore advocated enhanced information on climate-related threats to penguins and is seeking to improve the protection of this species. Excessive tourism also threatens Antarctica. In order to prevent the tourist industry from inflicting damage on the environment unchecked, Germany is advocating proactive tourism management and coherent guidelines for visitors to Antarctica.
Microplastics polluting the seas
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are being polluted by alluvial microplastics. Together with other countries, Germany therefore intends to take measures to combat pollution. Although many countries were in agreement on the issue of microplastics in Prague, resistance on the part of a small number of countries prevented a still stronger resolution in this area from being adopted. This goes to show that, despite all the issues on which consensus has been reached, there are also different points of view with respect to Antarctica. Germany and many other countries emphasise environmental protection as well as the peaceful and scientific use of this unique natural habitat. Other countries, on the other hand, have strong economic interests in the region and the environmental aspect is not always in the foreground. In Prague, however, all of the Consultative Parties expressly reaffirmed their commitments in Antarctica and decided to continue to improve the exchange of Information.