Antarctic vital for climate change science

Science and policy makers discuss Antarctica's future

Around 300 scientists, legal and political advisors from 45 countries meet in Edinburgh from June 12 to 23 to discuss the continued protection of Antarctica - the world's last great wilderness.

This is the first time since 1977 that the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting has been hosted by the UK. The two-week meeting at Edinburgh International Conference Centre addresses the future environmental, policy and legal challenges facing the continent that was designated for peace and science in 1961. Issues for discussion include enhanced scientific collaboration during the forthcoming International Polar Year, sustainable tourism, biological prospecting, and management of the effects of climate change on the Antarctic environment.

The meeting will be opened officially by HRH the Princess Royal. In a keynote address Lord Triesman, Minister for Overseas Territories, says, "The importance of Antarctica as a platform for science cannot be underestimated. As the effects of climate change become more evident, it will be to the Antarctic that we must continue to turn for possible answers both to examine the pre-history of our planet locked up in Antarctic ice, and to monitor the very stability of that ice-sheet. For sea-level rise, when it comes, will partly have its origins in the southern continent."

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) undertakes as world-class programme of scientific research and plays an influential leadership role in Antarctic affairs. Professor Chris Rapley, Director of British Antarctic Survey, says, "The Polar Regions are crucial to the stability of the planet. But while the Antarctic Treaty System ensures scientific cooperation and collaboration in Antarctica, and seeks to protect its environment, it will increasingly have to confront the impacts on the Antarctic of change outside its jurisdiction, raising new issues of global international negotiation. The forthcoming International Polar Year will provide the sound scientific underpinning for such policies and treaties"

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For further information contact Becky Allen, ATCM Press Officer, Mob: 07736-921693 or Linda Capper, British Antarctic Survey Press Office, Mob: 07714-233744.

Notes for picture editors: Broadcast quality footage and stunning stills images are available from Linda Capper.

Notes for editors

1. The Antarctic Treaty came into effect in 1961 and is one of the world's most successful international agreements. The Treaty put all territorial claims into abeyance and designated the continent as a place for peace and science.

2. Antarctica is of global importance because science in Antarctica can help provide the answers to global concerns such as climate change. For example, ice cores from the Antarctic can tell us about the history of the earth's climate over the past 900,000 years.

3. Among the issues discussed at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting will be site guidelines for parts of in Antarctica that attract significant numbers of visitors, the environmental and safety implications of very large ocean liners visiting Antarctica and guidelines on the exchange of ballast water to protect Antarctica from invasive non-native species.

4. International Polar Year (IPY) takes place over 2007-08. A joint initiative by the Meteorological Organisation and International Council for Science, IPY's aim is for an international burst of scientific activity to enhance our understanding of the polar regions and thus our understanding of global processes.

British Antarctic Survey is a world leader in research into global issues in an Antarctic context. It is the UK's national operator and is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council. It has an annual budget of around 40 million, runs nine research programmes and operates five research stations, two Royal Research Ships and five aircraft in and around Antarctica. More information about the work of the Survey can be found on our Web site: www.antarctica.ac.uk.

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