Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 October 2009
The background to the development and implementation of environmental impact assessment procedures in Antarctica is reviewed and the principles and procedures of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (the Madrid Protocol of 1991) are outlined. The difficulties in determining the appropriate level of assessment and the practical, operational aspects of carrying out the evaluations are examined. Particular attention is given to the meaning of terminology in the Protocol, the interpretation of environmental principles and standards, alternatives to the proposed activity, the requirements for sufficient information, the process of obtaining and taking into account public comment, the monitoring of environmental indicators, and the practical implications where an activity needs to be suspended, cancelled, or modified. The workloads generated by the procedures and the credibility of the processes are discussed in view of a possible perception that the exercises may amount to little more than ‘red tape’ to justify decisions that would be taken in any case. Recommendations are made that could improve the EIA process in Antarctica.