Environment ministers from across the Commonwealth have jointly committed to work together to tackle the devastating impacts of climate change, build resilience and collaborate on ocean action.
During a roundtable side event at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, ministers with responsibility for the environment, oceans and climate change representing 26 countries across the Commonwealth agreed to a statement which commits them to work together “to tackle and reduce the devastating impacts of climate change on our countries’ peoples, economies, land and ocean environments”.
The written statement went on to add: “We will share our experiences and ideas to formulate multilateral actions across the Commonwealth”.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland opened the meeting entitled ‘Advancing ambition and accelerating action – Dialogue on climate change, resilience building and ocean action’.
She told ministers: “No country in our Commonwealth family is unaffected by the impacts of climate change.
“Now is the moment for us to bring our collective voice to bear on these defining issues of our time.”
The event was designed to boost the Commonwealth’s efforts towards reducing emissions, accelerating the rate of resilience-building and adaptation and using natural and marine resources in a sustainable manner (otherwise referred to as green and blue growth).
- Reaffirmed the need to pursue efforts to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C, as documented in the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report
- Highlighted the commitments of Commonwealth countries to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement through revised nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by 2020
- Acknowledged the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate and emphasised the role of the ocean in addressing climate change
- Discussed the success of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s programmes on climate finance, cooperation on ocean action (Blue Charter), resilience building (including disaster risk finance portal, debt management, sustainable economic development) and sustainable energy transition and regenerative development.
The Secretary-General drew attention to the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, a service designed to help member countries untangle red tape around climate financing and make successful applications to international funds designed to tackle climate change effects.
She said: “The financing gaps for climate action, both for mitigation and adaptation measures remains significant. This hub is a hugely valuable addition to the pool of Commonwealth resources and practical assistance.”
Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, who delivered the keynote address added: “One of the problems of being a small state is lack of capacity – that’s why the Commonwealth and its many toolkits and the Climate Finance Access Hub are so important. But now the question is, how do we scale it up?”
In fact the hub has helped member countries access a total of USD 27million of funding – more than 35 times the original start-up investment of AUD 1 million from Australia.
Furthermore, nearly half a billion USD has been applied for and is in the pipeline for climate action projects across the Commonwealth.
Ministers also discussed the Commonwealth Blue Charter – a commitment to promote good ocean governance and protect the ocean, back by action groups to tackle threats such as pollution, over-fishing and the effects of climate change through shared, innovative approaches. They highlighted the inextricable link between climate change and ocean action.
To date, 12 countries have stepped forward to be Commonwealth Blue Charter Champions on nine topics identified as priorities. Topics include coral reef protection and restoration, ocean acidification, marine plastic pollution and marine protected areas.
Ministers agreed to meet again at the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Santiago, Chile, in December, which is being badged as the ‘blue COP’. They will develop proposals for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2020 in order to strengthen financing mechanisms and help Commonwealth countries fulfil their climate mitigation, adaptation and ocean action commitments.