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Commonwealth to play central role in combating climate threat

by April 7, 2016 General

LONDON: The Commonwealth countries will play a central role in addressing the “existential threat” of climate change which is “the most severe global challenge facing this generation, the Secretary-General of the 53-member bloc has said.

The forum hosted by Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland focused on the way forward after the historic Paris climate agreement at COP21 in December last year.

Welcoming delegates, Scotland said that the Commonwealth will play a “central role in addressing the existential threat of climate change.”

Describing the issue as “the most severe global challenge facing our generation” she said the Commonwealth, with its “potent combination of distinctive strengths and advantages” is well poised to continue to “provide smaller and more vulnerable states with a vital platform for wider political consideration of their concerns.”

Fiji’s High Commissioner Jitoko Tikolevu described the “frightening” threat facing his country and called on all nations to “act decisively”.

He said: “The emergency is now, so the solution must be now. There is no more room for excuses!”

Outlining Commonwealth initiatives such as the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, which will help countries successfully bid for climate action funding, Scotland challenged participants to think about the practical next steps to deal with the globe’s environmental challenges.

The Commonwealth, a loose association of 53 former British colonies and current dependencies, along with some countries with no historical ties to Britain, represents 2.3 billion people.

Members include Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Fiji, Ghana, Grenada, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore and South Africa.

David King, the UK Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change, outlined the importance of investing in innovations to reduce rising carbon emissions.

Climate justice advocate Mary Robinson questioned whether the historic global agreement on climate change in Paris will deliver action at the speed and scale needed to keep warming below 1.5 degrees or well below 2 degrees.

Referring to the landmark climate change agreement at the 2015 Commonwealth Head of Government meeting, Secretary General Scotland said: “There was an agreement that 53 of us would commit to 2 per cent with 52 of us saying 1.5 per cent would be our aspiration.”

She added: “So now, having been instrumental in achieving the Paris agreement, the Commonwealth now has to be instrumental in delivering it.”

The event is the first in a series of high-level policy dialogues to be hosted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General.