A blog by Bilal Anwar, Manager of the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub
Furthering action on climate change was one of the key elements of the agenda and discussions of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2018, held in London under the theme ‘Towards our Common Future’.
Interactions, deliberations and several public and policy statements by country representatives and other CHOGM participants underscored the severity of climatic threats and environmental challenges faced by member states - in particular, small states and least developed countries. There was certainly a recognition of the need and potential for the Commonwealth to assist its members in their climate actions.
The CHOGM climate change debate touched on all aspects of climate policy and actions. It reiterated commitments towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the need to support countries to consolidate actions on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, two major aspects stood out glaringly. Firstly, concerns over the increasing intensity and frequency of climate induced natural disasters and the damages to livelihood and economies. Secondly, critical and detrimental technical capacity gaps and challenges to access the adequate levels of financing countries need to address the current and future adverse impacts in a viable and sustainable manner.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Communiqué befittingly noted that ‘without urgent action to mitigate climate change, reduce vulnerability and increase resilience, the impacts of climate change could push an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030’.
Leaders recognized the value of building on the Commonwealth’s existing achievements. A number of member states hailed the successes of the Climate Finance Access Hub, identifying it as one of the Commonwealth’s flagship programmes which is helping countries address technical capacity gaps and mobilizing climate finance.
A wide array of leaders, representatives of international organisations and business community participated in the ‘Climate Change and the Commonwealth: Accelerating Action’ event, held on the morning of 17th April during the CHOGM. The event sent a strong message to all CHOGM participants to scale up the Commonwealth’s action on climate change, and the need for dedicated action and a forum for the purpose.
Fiji’s prime minister, Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, while chairing the meeting, urged Commonwealth leaders to deliver on their commitments to cut CO2 emissions. He further stressed that limiting climate change to a rise of 1.5 degrees celsius - the Paris aspiration - does not go far enough to avert a catastrophic future for many small island states.
Other leaders, including Claire Perry, The UK minister of state for energy and clean growth, and Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland also noted the desperate need for technical capacity, financial resources and special support to countries in building resilience against climate change.
This really underscored the value of the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub. With a technical assistance programme already extended in eight of the most climatically vulnerable countries in the African, Pacific and Caribbean regions, the Hub has already proven its worth and potential as a global mechanism for innovative financing for climate action by the Commonwealth. National climate finance advisers in these countries are engaged in building the capacity and paving the way for innovative financing through mitigation and adaptation measures.
This remarkable success in a short time, during the first phase of its operation, is why it is widely considered to be an instrumental part of the Commonwealth’s ‘Towards a Common Future’ commitment.