Commonwealth leaders reach agreement on climate change

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, November 30, 2009 – Commonwealth leaders wrapped up their three-day summit in Trinidad and Tobago agreeing on a united front to try to seal a firm deal on climate change at the United Nations conference in Copenhagen, Denmark within weeks.

Host Prime Minister Patrick Manning said leaders met in extensive discussion and have come to a conclusion on the matter of a climate change international policy.

The resolution reached during the meeting, called The Port of Spain Climate Change Consensus; Commonwealth Declaration, 2009, highlighted the need for “an ambitious mitigation outcome at Copenhagen to reduce the risks of dangerous climate change without compromising the legitimate development aspirations of developing countries”. 

“We stress our common conviction that urgent and substantial action to reduce global emissions is needed and have a range of views as to whether average global temperature increase should be constrained to below 1.5 degrees or to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” the document said, adding that an internationally legally binding agreement in Copenhagen is essential. 

“We agree that an equitable governance structure to manage the financial and technological support must be put in place.  We agree that a future governance structure should provide for states to monitor and comply with arrangements entered under a new Copenhagen agreement,” it continued.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon advised leaders to stay focused, stay committed and to seal a deal in Copenhagen.

“We are united in purpose, not yet in action. Our proposed agreement must be ambitious, comprehensive, binding and with immediate operational effect, both in the short and long term. We must give priority to the most vulnerable states,” he said at a press conference with Manning, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whose country will host the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2011.

“Momentum is growing and most leaders are committed to participation in Copenhagen. The United Nations will continue to support efforts in this regard.”

“The fact that we have combined our voices as one…is itself a remarkable achievement,” Rudd said, while Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi said the meeting “did not shy away from difficult items ranging from climate change to illegal arms trade”.

Prime Minister Manning said he was convinced an ambitious agreement could be reached in Denmark and confirmed that 90 Heads of Government, including him, had agreed to attend next month’s conference.

On the global economic and financial crisis, the Commonwealth leaders said they welcomed the various initiatives to help lessen the impact and expressed their support for the commitment to avoid protectionism and to strengthen financial supervisions and regulation.

However, they expressed concern that the social and economic impact of the crisis would continue to affect a vast majority of the developing countries, particularly the smallest and most economically vulnerable members of the Commonwealth.

The leaders also felt that measures were needed to “address the plight of many middle-income countries which are highly susceptible to external shock but do not have access to concessionary loans and grants”.

“Heads therefore welcomed the Commonwealth Secretariat’s work to address the economic challenges facing these economically vulnerable member states and urged that urgent measures be taken to provide support for them, especially in accessing adequate financing,” the communiqué added.

This year’s meeting was attended by Rasmussen and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, whose countries are not members of the 53-nation Commonwealth. Their presence was part of the effort to form a common position on climate change ahead of Copenhagen.