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Collective action key to halting climate change damage

8 December 2017

Permanent and irreversible damage caused by climate change can only be tackled by collective action, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has said.

Speaking at a University of Southampton public lecture on the environment, Secretary-General Scotland said the extreme weather which has caused so much devastation in recent months was further evidence that countries should work together to mitigate its impact.

She added that by implementing regenerative models of development across the Commonwealth’s 52-member states, that a meaningful difference could be made.

“The Commonwealth has always been in the vanguard of action on climate change and therefore the understanding of the extent of the impending threat first dawned long ago,” said the Secretary-General.

“It is almost 30 years since Commonwealth nations collectively expressed their deep concern at the threat of climate change. We are now a generation on, and any further delay in taking action to halt this progressive deterioration will result in permanent and irreversible damage.”

Addressing an invited audience in London, Secretary-General Scotland explained that on a tour of the Caribbean following the destruction caused by a succession of Category 5 hurricanes, she had come face-to-face with the crippling reality of climate change.

She said, “Many of our smaller and our more vulnerable member countries have been disrupted, and in some cases devastated, by extreme weather events and other catastrophes. I recently witnessed the devastating trail of ruin left by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in parts of the Caribbean. And we are now seeing the adverse impact of climate change affecting every region of the Commonwealth.”

The Secretary-General went on to talk about the progressive steps being taking across the 52-member states to mitigate climate change, such as the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub and the forthcoming Commonwealth Blue Charter, which will enable countries to develop their objectives more sustainably.

“The regenerative model is the only way in which we will be able to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. And it is predicated on fairness,” said Secretary-General Scotland. “Climate adaptation and resilience must be bottom up, placing people and ecosystem service and function at its core. This has to be at the heart of our delivery programme on climate change.”

Other speakers included Professor Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for International Development, and Professor Sybren Drijfhout, Professor in Physical Oceanography and Climate Physics at the University of Southampton. In addition to discussing the major challenges being faced at a political level in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals, the panel session also addressed the role that universities and academics could play in supporting international policymakers.