James Gray MP chaired the Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly on 1 December 2021, convening over 40 parliamentarians from 24 countries - including China, the USA and the UK - in a virtual conference to discuss the challenges facing Antarctica and the Antarctic Treaty.
“Bringing such a large group together just weeks after COP26 to discuss the melting ice sheets in Antarctica shows that climate change is still top of the international agenda” said Mr Gray after the half-day conference.
“Direct access to scientists whose first-hand accounts of the impact of climate change in Antarctica facilitated important discussions that will enable parliamentarians to press their governments into action.”
Expert speakers from seven countries delivered sessions on topics ranging from the impact of covid-19 on Antarctic science, to marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, and monitoring penguin colonies from space.
The conference followed on from the hugely successful inaugural Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly held in London in 2019 and organised by James Gray as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions. (The covid-19 pandemic forced the international delegations to meet online this year, but it is hoped that the third event in two years’ time will be held physically and in the Southern Hemisphere.)
“With the Antarctic Treaty System under increasing pressure to address new challenges, the Assembly provided an opportunity for parliamentarians, rather than governments, to learn more about Antarctica and press their legislatures to support and prioritise the work of the Treaty.”
“I am delighted with the success of the Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly, gathering parliamentarians and representatives from China, the USA and Russia among many others, to discuss contentious issues that governments and diplomats often cannot."