Table of Contents

Polar Oceans Governance in an Era of Environmental Change

Polar Oceans Governance in an Era of Environmental Change

New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series

Edited by Tim Stephens and David L. VanderZwaag

This timely book provides a cutting-edge assessment of how the dynamic ocean regions at the highest latitudes on Earth are being managed in an era of unprecedented environmental change. The Arctic and Southern Oceans are experiencing transformative environmental change as a result of climate change and ocean acidification. As areas of unparalleled environmental, cultural and scientific value, they are crucibles for testing how integrated, eco-systemic governance frameworks can be developed to meet and address volatile environmental, political and economic challenges.

Chapter 14: Middle powers and oceans policy: Australian perspectives on Antarctic competition and cooperation

Donald R. Rothwell

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental governance and regulation, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, public international law, politics and public policy, international relations


Australia has been a long-standing player in polar affairs, formally commencing with Sir Douglas Mawson's 1911-1914 expedition, which paved the way for Australian interests in Antarctica to be formalized by way of the declaration of the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT) in 1936. Australia's polar interests have been predominantly realized through territorial claims to the AAT and the sub-Antarctic Macquarie, Heard and McDonald islands, by being an original party to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, and subsequently as an active participant in the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). Australia's territorial claims in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean remain of considerable significance to Australia over a century since their foundation was first laid, as was highlighted in 2012 when Australia proclaimed outer continental shelves offshore both Heard Island and Macquarie Island. As a middle power, Australia has sought to balance its sovereign interests in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean with the benefits that it accrues from a rules-based system which advances policy objectives relating to security, science and environmental protection, while also retaining marine living resource rights. In doing so, Australia has been a strong supporter of the ATS and its associated mechanisms. This chapter assesses the ways in which Australia has participated in various ATS fora in order to achieve cooperative outcomes that accord with Australian foreign policy priorities, and the extent to which changing environmental and geopolitical considerations are posing challenges for Australia's successful utilization of Antarctic and Southern Ocean institutions.

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