Speech delivered by Adv. J.H. (Johnny) De Lange, MP, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs, on Annex VI to the Protocol on the Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty: Liabilities arising from Environmental Emergencies, in the National Assembly Chamber, in Parliament

12 November 2013

Honourable Chairperson,
Honourable Ministers,
Honourable Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members,
Comrades and Friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I rise on this occasion on behalf of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs (Portfolio Committee) to recommend the unconditional adoption of Annex VI to the Protocol on the Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty: Liabilities arising from Environmental Emergencies, which has been unanimously adopted by all parties in the Portfolio Committee.

History and present status

The Antarctic Treaty System provides the framework for international co-operation under which various Conventions and Protocols regarding Antarctica were negotiated. The objective of the Antarctic Treaty (Treaty) is to regulate scientific research and the tourism potential of Antarctica to the benefit of all humankind and to preserve the use of the continent exclusively for peaceful purposes.

South Africa does not claim sovereignty over any Antarctic territory and does not recognise the right or claim to territorial sovereignty by any State. South Africa`s involvement within the Treaty and its subsidiary Conventions and Protocols are in line with the generally accepted scientific principles for Antarctica and our geographical proximity to Antarctica. The environment of Antarctica is significant because it has been changed very little by people. Scientists can study the area to find out how an environment evolved and still evolves, naturally, without human interference. This is relevant to us, as our knowledge of environmental behaviour and change is vital for shaping our management and conservation practices, which are critical for ensuring environmental sustainability in perpetuity, insofar as the needs of the future generations are concerned.

[The Treaty was signed on 1 December 1959 and entered into force on 12 June 1961. South Africa is an original signatory State, alongside 11 other Parties. Today, there are 47 Parties to the Treaty. The Treaty has proved itself to be one of the most forward-looking and successful international agreements of all time, effectively symbolising a model of international cooperation among nation States.]

It is important to note that several Protocols have since been successfully negotiated within the framework of the original Treaty, including:

  • The Convention on Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS);
  • The Convention on Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR);
  • The Convention on Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA); and
  • The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid Protocol).

Adoption of Annexure VI to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty

Annex VI to the Protocol on the Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty: Liabilities arising from Environmental Emergencies (Annex VI), also referred to as the Madrid Protocol, is the most recent instrument negotiated under the Treaty, and was introduced to Parliament for consideration of its ratification, in terms of section 231(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996. Annex VI creates a framework for Parties to require organisations or entities (whether governmental and non-governmental) that plan activities in the Antarctic Treaty area to develop and implement contingency plans to reduce the risk of environmental incidents when they occur.

South Africa has strong interests in preserving the pristine and sensitive Antarctic environment, its resources and also to limit the impact of human made environmental emergencies for future generations and for the betterment of humankind. The key focus of Annex VI is on environmental emergencies arising in the Antarctic Areas is, firstly and primarily, for South Africa to ensure compliance of its operators with certain preventative measure which will be put in place to reduce the risk of environmental emergencies, and secondly, enabling the South African government to claim expenses arising from clean-ups of operations launched from other countries directly from offending operator or from an international fund to be established. Without a system of compensation in place, the South African government would have to take such actions without any certainty that its expenses would be reimbursed by the responsible Parties.

Annex VI fully supports South Africa’s strategic interests, as it advances our goal of protecting the environment, establishes incentives for Antarctica operators to act responsibly, and provides for the reimbursement of costs incurred by our Government when it responds to environmental emergencies caused by others. The Annex will encourage operators to take greater steps to prevent environmental emergencies of especially oil spills. Ratifying Annex VI, which deals with “Liability Arising from Environmental Emergencies”, would provide South Africa with a unique opportunity to highlight and promote its excellent environmental protection image and hence give our nation a respectful voice in multilateral processes.

The Portfolio Committee, having considered the request for approval by Parliament of the aforementioned Annex VI, referred to it, recommends that the House ratify Annex VI to the Protocol on the Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.

I thank you.