To meet the Paris Agreement targets of keeping global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2050, 60% of proven hydrocarbon reserves must remain in the ground. To date, these “reserves” do not include the hydrocarbons in Antarctica where hydrocarbon-bearing sedimentary basins are well known.
Article 7 of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid Protocol) bans all mineral resource activity in the Antarctic. While open-ended, the Protocol may be challenged after 2048, paving the way for future extraction opportunities and consequent international rivalries amongst the states present on the continent. While we may hope for a positive decision in 2048 not to seek access to Antarctic oil and gas thereafter, we are presently canalized into a pathway that may precisely allow this.