BERLIN (AP) — China has blocked efforts to strengthen protection for emperor penguins, which are increasingly at risk from the effects of global warming on their natural habitat in Antarctica, officials said Friday.
Dozens of countries had backed granting special protection status to the world’s largest penguins at a 10-day meeting in Berlin of Antarctic Treaty parties. The treaty was forged in 1959 to ensure the continent remains the preserve of science and free of arms.
“An overwhelming majority of parties believed that there is sufficient scientific evidence for the species to be placed under special protection,” the German government, which hosted the May 22-June 2 meeting, said on Friday.
While a formal decision was “blocked by one side”, he said most of the countries attending the meeting were nonetheless planning to put in place national measures to protect emperor penguins.
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Chinese officials could not immediately be reached for comment. But delegates at the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Beijing had made it clear it wanted more time to consider the implications of improving the penguins’ protection status.
The meeting was partly overshadowed by the war in Ukraine, with many countries speaking out against Russia’s attack on the country.
Russia, which like Ukraine is active in Antarctica, was represented at the meeting by an official from its embassy in Berlin, with other delegates attending remotely via video link.
Despite disputes with Beijing over penguins and deep diplomatic rift between Moscow and the West over Ukraine, the meeting was able to adopt a consensus package of conservation measures for Antarctica. These included measures to designate four new protected areas in the future and to limit tourism to the frozen continent.