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Research Handbook on International Environmental Law

Research Handbook on International Environmental Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Malgosia Fitzmaurice, David M. Ong and Panos Merkouris

This wide-ranging and comprehensive Handbook examines recent developments in international environmental law (IEL) and the crossover effects of this expansion on other areas of international law, such as trade law and the law of the sea.

Chapter 30: Drilling at the Poles: Environmental Protection in the Antarctic and the Arctic

Karen N. Scott

Subjects: environment, environmental law, environmental sociology, law - academic, environmental law, public international law


* Karen N. Scott Introduction No two geographical regions have been so compared and contrasted as the Arctic and the Antarctic.1 Superficially, the physical, biological, political and even legal similarities between these two regions are indeed striking. The physical and biological environment of both the Arctic and the Antarctic is dominated by the presence of ice, the lack of sunlight, the cold temperatures and the short and simple food chain which underpins the existence of Polar biodiversity (Fogg, 1998: chapters 1 and 2). As a consequence of these factors, both regions are particularly susceptible to environmental degradation, over-fishing, oil pollution and, of course, climate change. Both regions are of considerable significance for scientific research and this has been recognised in practical terms by the decision to hold a third International Polar Year (IPY) (2007–08),2 during which time over 200 research projects will be undertaken within the Arctic and/or the Antarctic.3 Politically, both regions have been, and continue to be, subject to serious sovereignty disputes, albeit disputes which are fundamentally different in both nature and extent. However, these disputes are arguably at least partially responsible for what might be described as the creation of groundbreaking and innovative Polar legal regimes. The 1959 Antarctic Treaty provides the lynchpin of the Antarctic Treaty system, which is arguably the most successful regional management regime to date. Parties to the Antarctic Treaty and its associated instruments have pledged to preserve Antarctica for peaceful purposes and for the promotion of scientific endeavour. By means of...

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