Antarctic Treaty System NZ delegation

The New Zealand delegation to the ATCM and CEP meetings in 2022.

Case Study: Scientific advice to international Antarctic Treaty meetings

22 August 2022

The Antarctic Science Platform leadership team provided scientific advice to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)-led delegation to the 44th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and the Antarctica NZ-led delegation to the 24th Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) meeting held in Germany, 23 May – 2 June, 2022.

New Zealand is one of 12 original signatories to the Antarctic Treaty (signed in 1959), and these annual international meetings are a key target for the Platform’s research data, findings and new understandings.

In 2022, senior Platform staff (A/Prof Nancy Bertler, Prof Tim Naish, Prof Ian Hawes) joined the New Zealand delegation remotely to support the New Zealand delegation during the meetings. Aligned to New Zealand interests, our team provided scientific background to the meeting papers and was on-call for science advice and feedback to the New Zealand delegate team in Germany. This meant some late nights for our team in New Zealand!

Observers, including the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) and Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), and invited experts also attend these meetings. The host country released a communiqué that provides a summary of the meeting and its outcomes.

A number of Measures, Decisions and Resolutions were agreed and adopted on Antarctic climate change and the environment, protected areas, air safety, heritage management, and permanent facilities for tourism, to name a few. Notably, SCAR presented its landmark decadal synopsis on Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment (ACCE). This report, co-authored by the Platform’s Prof Tim Naish, generated significant and positive support from many parties. This resulted in a New Zealand led Decision and Resolution that included agreement to hold a dedicated day on climate change for the ATCM and CEP at next year’s Treaty meeting to discuss how to take the report’s recommendations forward.

Having members of the science community involved was a unique opportunity for researchers to better understand the Treaty processes, and to discover where science can support New Zealand’s policy position and priorities in these forums. We observed firsthand the high level of science literacy in the ATCM and CEP delegates, and the strength of New Zealand’s voice and excellent reputation in this forum. The experience highlighted the value placed on peer-reviewed, published papers with multinational authors, and the need to understand the geopolitical system as we work towards science outcomes and impact, and build strategic relationships.

Since 2021, the Platform Director, A/Prof. Nancy Bertler, has been involved in MFAT’s Antarctic Officials Coordination Group. The Group meets quarterly to facilitate the protection and advancement of New Zealand’s strategic interests in Antarctic and the Southern Ocean, by coordinating policy development and implementation, domestic outreach, and international engagement on Antarctic and Southern Ocean issues. It includes representatives from a diverse range of government agencies with an interest in Antarctic and Southern Ocean topics: MFAT, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Department of Conservation, New Zealand Defence Force, Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand, Maritime New Zealand, Antarctica New Zealand, Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies.

Nansen Ice Sheet

Nansen Ice Sheet. Photo: Craig Stevens/NIWA

This Case Study was submitted to MBIE as part of the ASP annual reporting for the 2021-2022 year. It illustrates an example of scientists and policy makers working together, and demonstrates how science can support international Antarctic Treaty processes and policy formation.