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Fiftieth anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty

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Ed Miliband, Minister of Energy and Climate Change, spoke at a reception at Lancaster House about the debt we owe to those killed in the Antarctic in the pursuit of science since the first permanent British base was set up at Port Lockroy in 1944.

Foreign Office Minister Gillian Merron hosted a reception on Wednesday 25 March to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty at Lancaster House. The UK was the first State to ratify the Treaty, which was agreed in 1959 and has continued to play a prominent role in underpinning comprehensive environmental protection and conservation of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. 

She underscored the UK's continuing commitment to the principles enshrined in the Treaty and looked forward to attending a celebratory event to be hosted by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in Washington DC on Monday 6th April. She said, 'I would like to invite you to join me in celebrating what the UK has done in helping to give life to the Antarctic Treaty 50 years ago, and in continuing to support the sustainable management of Antarctica, which remains an important goal of this government.

We can be rightly proud of the expert work done by British scientists in understanding Antarctica, and particularly in using science to further our understanding of climatic and environmental change.

We must also use this anniversary year to re-commit ourselves to the core principles set down by the treaty half a century ago. A treaty that declared, boldly, that it is in the interests of all mankind to preserve Antarctica for peaceful, scientific purposes – and so we will.'

Ed Milliband, Minister for Energy and Climate Change, talked about the importance of the research carried out by BAS which has led to a better understanding of the way our climae is changing.  Hilary Benn, Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, spoke about his awe at stepping out of a plane onto the Antarctic continent for the first time. They both spoke at the reception to underscore the importance of Antarctica as an integral part of the Earth's climate system. 

They also highlighted the crucial role the Antarctic Treaty has played in enabling scientists to collaborate in understanding the continent and its importance to the rest of the world.  As the world prepares for crucial negotiations on climate change later this year, they flagged the importance of continuing scientific research and monitoring in the Polar Regions as these areas are a barometer for the world's climate.   

Professor Nick Owens, Director of the British Antarctic Survey, also highlighted the range of recent scientific endeavours undertaken by British scientists as part of the International Polar Year 2007-08.

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