Delegates from New Zealand and 53 other member nations of the Antarctic Treaty gathered in Prague this month for a meeting with a focus on the global emergency that is climate change.
In a year which has already seen India and Europe burn in heatwaves, the 42nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting's climate focus couldn't be more important.
But it wasn't the only big subject at the Prague summit – also on the table were biodiversity conservation and calls for more marine protected areas. These are key themes of the Antarctic Treaty, which came into force 57 years ago.
It banned any military presence, and in 1991 enabled the formation of the Protocol on
Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (CEP), which turned Antarctica into a "natural reserve, devoted to peace and science".
Today, the treaty remains an integral part of the work of the Hobart-headquartered Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources – or CCAMLR – which meets each year to work on the protection of Antarctica's biodiversity.
At 14 million sq km, the continent itself is roughly the size of both the US and Mexico combined. It's also the coldest, driest, windiest place on Earth, with an average temperature of −19.6C, a highest recorded temperature at 6.8C and a record low of −57C, making it a very unwelcoming place for most people.
Protecting marine resources should be a no-brainer when it comes to mitigating future climate impacts, to protect krill, phytoplankton, marine mammals and their associated ecosystems.
But each year, scientists from all around the world travel there to stay for a summer, or more, departing from one of five main "Gateway" Cities situated close to the world's southern continent, enabling logistics, education, but also tourism and research.
One of these key cities is New Zealand's South Island Ōtautahi-Christchurch.
A couple of weeks ago, the New Zealand Antarctic Science Platform announced that NZ$26m had been allocated to further long-term Antarctic marine and climate science research projects, which include understanding the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the impacts of change in the Antarctic atmosphere and Southern Ocean, or the threats to ecosystems dynamics in the Ross Sea.
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This research is conducted while taking into account pledges made by countries under the 2015 Paris Agreement, whose aim is "to limit global temperature increase well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5C".
Earlier, in May, the US government announced US$400m for the McMurdo Station rebuild, while the New Zealand Government announced a budget of up to $290m for the redevelopment of Scott Base, with an initial funding of $19.7m to work on further design and market testing.
In this context, Ōtautahi-Christchurch is ideally placed to further become an ever-more dynamic hub and voice of science, peace, environmental protection and, until recently, an international hub for innovative social entrepreneurship.
The Canterbury City is an important gateway to Antarctica with up to 100 flights per year, with many organisations working around it, including popular tourist attraction the Antarctic Centre, and the University of Canterbury. It also hosts the New Zealand Antarctic Society and the Antarctic Heritage Trust.
Many New Zealand and overseas scientific institutes work here, including NIWA and NOAA.
As Christchurch rebuilds after the 2011 earthquake, innovation and entrepreneurship are at the top of the list of the city's economic development priorities, through its agency Christchurch NZ.
It aims to make it an ever-more attractive place for young people from all over the world with common values of knowledge, community and kaitiakitanga but also compassion and peace.
As a recent French-British immigrant to New Zealand under the Edmund Hillary Fellowship programme, it is exciting to be living in such a dynamic city, resilient in the face of adversity and committed to peace and science.
As Professor Jane Lubchenco and Steven Gaines wrote recently, we need a new narrative for the ocean, as it has been found it is "not too big to fail, nor too big to fix. It is too big to ignore".
The Southern Ocean and the conservation of Antarctic waters is therefore a major keystone of our response in dealing with our multiple crises and changing the narrative to a positive one. Protecting marine resources should be a no-brainer when it comes to mitigating future climate impacts, to protect krill, phytoplankton, marine mammals and their associated ecosystems.
As only two marine protected areas exist there, South Orkney and the Ross Sea, three new marine protected areas are today being brought forward: the Weddell Sea (1.8 million sq km), the East Antarctic (950,000 sq km), and the Antarctic Peninsula (450,000 sq km).
The aim of the Antarctica 2020 coalition, is to protect 7 million sq km by 2020, as today only 4.8 per cent of our ocean is protected. We should seize this opportunity.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is currently in its preparatory phase and will start in 2021.
It is a 10-year-long commitment, aiming to bring about transformational change across societies through ocean literacy and by reframing the ocean narrative around technological innovation and solutions.
Ōtautahi-Christchurch is a unique place with a rare destiny connected with purpose, and has the opportunity to continue writing a narrative built on peace and science. The Southern Ocean, Antarctica and its protection represent and need both.
• James Nikitine is media advisor at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, the co-founder and chief executive of Manaia Productions and an Edmund Hillary Fellow