In October 1991, the Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection, also known as the Madrid Protocol, was signed in Madrid. It entered into force in 1998 after all Antarctic Treaty members incorporated it into their domestic law, ensuring comprehensive protection of Antarctic environmental values.
Through this Protocol, the Parties commit themselves to the global protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems, designating Antarctica as a natural reserve, dedicated to peace and scientific research (Art. 2).
The Protocol consists of six annexes:
- Annex I – Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
- Annex II – Fauna and Flora
- Annex III – Waste Management
- Annex IV – Marine Pollution
- Annex V – Protection and Management of Zones
- Annex VI – Responsibility for Environmental Emergencies
- To increase protection of the Antarctic environment.
- Strengthen the Antarctic Treaty system to ensure that Antarctica is used exclusively for peaceful purposes.
- Ensure that all activities in Antarctica are compatible with the purposes and principles of the Antarctic Treaty.
- To develop a global system for the protection of the Antarctic environment.
Article 11 of the Protocol established the formation of a Committee for the Protection of the Environment (CPA) whose functions are to advise and recommend to the Parties regarding the implementation of the Protocol, including the functioning of the Annexes. It is composed of representatives of the Parties who normally meet once a year on the occasion of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATSC).
Within this framework, as an Antarctic Treaty Consultative Party, Uruguay is governed by the Protocol for the Protection of the Environment and its Annexes for all Uruguayan activity in Antarctica.