Regional

High hopes for Commonwealth joint action on climate, biodiversity and land

Leaders from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific have expressed their strong support for a proposed ‘Living Lands Charter’ that will spur cooperation among 54 nations to manage land use sustainably, protect the natural world and fight climate change.

During a high-level event this week at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland reiterated a “call to action for living lands”, integrating the targets of the three Rio Conventions on biodiversity, climate change and desertification, which arose from the historic 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

She said: “The proposed Commonwealth Living Lands Charter seeks to catalyse the global political momentum for enhancing climate action, building resilience, reducing biodiversity loss, and arresting land degradation.”

Focus areas to be explored within the charter include climate resilient agriculture, soil and water conservation and management, sustainable green cover and biodiversity, and the active engagement of indigenous people.

The initiative was supported by the prime ministers of Fiji and Antigua and Barbuda, who joined the discussions along with ministers from Zambia, Namibia and Uganda.

The President of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema, whose remarks were delivered on his behalf by the Minister of Green and Economy and Environment, Hon Collins Nzovu, said:

“Zambia is a proud member of the Commonwealth and we are delighted to associate ourselves with this important call. For us, the conservation of biodiversity, which constitutes our natural capital, is critical to ensure we achieve our aspirations of ensuring a green economy and socio-economic development.”

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon Gaston Browne stated:

“I commend the Secretary-General for the Living Lands initiative in which she and the Commonwealth are playing their part in ensuring that we protect our biodiversity and protect human civilisation. There is a need to accelerate implementation of the various initiatives so that we can contain global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees… To do otherwise would be to fail small island states.”

The Prime Minister of Fiji, Hon Frank Bainimarama said:

“We need not forsake prosperity to preserve our natural world. We can be excellent environmental stewards while we improve the standards of living for our people. The Rio Conventions reflect the commitment of all countries to preserve the global environment. Let’s meet that commitment now, with the courage to act.”

The Executive Director of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification Ibrahim Thiaw and the Deputy Executive Director of the UN Convention on Biodiversity David Cooper also supported the Commonwealth’s Call for Action on Living lands, emphasising the need for collaboration and an integrated approach to achieve the targets set by the three Rio conventions.

To date, consultations on the proposed Living Lands Charter have been undertaken with 23 countries to garner support for the initiative, alongside engagements at the regional level and with development partners. These will continue with a view to receiving universal endorsement at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled to be held in Kigali, Rwanda in 2022.

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal sovereign states. Our combined population is 2.5 billion, of which more than 60 per cent is aged 29 or under.

The Commonwealth spans the globe and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. Thirty-two of our members are small states, many of which are island nations.

The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to build democratic and inclusive institutions, strengthen governance and promote justice and human rights. Our work helps to grow economies and boost trade, deliver national resilience, empower young people, and address threats such as climate change, debt and inequality.

Member countries are supported by a network of more than 80 intergovernmental, civil society, cultural and professional organisations.

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