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Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

Climate change efforts are ‘race against time’ – Secretary General

13 December 2018

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland is backing redoubled efforts by the Commonwealth family of 53 countries to fight climate change, in light of a sobering report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calling for “rapid and far-reaching” actions to keep global warming below 1.5°C.

Speaking at the High Level Segment of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, Secretary-General Scotland warned that any delay in taking action will result in “permanent and irreversible damage.”

“The problems are multifaceted, and must be matched by multidimensional solutions... No country in our family remains untouched. We now need to do more - faster and better – to win the race against time and save our Common Earth,” she stated.

According to the Report, carbon dioxide emissions must fall by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 on the way to reaching ‘net zero’ by 2050. This timetable demands transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Without these changes, climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are very likely to increase. Heightened threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, including species loss and extinction both on land and sea, are also expected if current trends continue. 

In scaling up efforts, the Secretary-General announced the development of a new toolkit by the Commonwealth to help member countries effectively implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) - the commitments made under the global Paris Agreement on climate change.

The initiative goes hand in hand with the Commonwealth’s toolkit on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as other practical programmes focusing on ocean governance, vulnerability and resilience, climate finance, and youth engagement.

In the margins of the COP24 meeting, Secretary-General Scotland met with Commonwealth youth leaders for an ‘intergenerational dialogue’ that called for the inclusion of young people in climate negotiations. She applauded the progressive move by the Seychelles to include 18 youths as members of its official delegation to COP24, with full training and access to negotiations.

“For the needs of all our people, particularly the marginalised and most vulnerable, we carry forward our fine Commonwealth record of pioneering practical action - to save our Common Earth and work towards a common future that is both sustainable and secure,” she said.

Several other flagship Commonwealth programmes will feature prominently today at COP24. One side event will highlight the Fiji-led action group on ocean and climate change under the Commonwealth Blue Charter on ocean governance, while the Climate Finance Access Hub and the Commonwealth Disaster Risk Portal will be discussed on another panel co-organised with the African Union and the Government of Mauritius.

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