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Arnaud Bouissou - MEDE / SG CPO21

Commonwealth Chair-in-Office addresses COP21 in Paris

1 December 2015

The Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta, has conveyed the commitment of Commonwealth leaders to limiting global warming at climate negotiations in Paris.

In his address to the United Nations climate conference, known as COP21, the Chair-in-Office affirmed that Commonwealth countries want to see “practical and swift action” by all governments and other public and private stakeholders to reinforce the outcome agreement.

“For too long our negotiators have been stuck in their defensive trenches playing a zero-sum, burden-sharing game, rather than looking over the edge towards the smart, healthy and profitable opportunities that sustainable development offers,” Mr Muscat told fellow world leaders on Monday.

The Commonwealth Chair-in-Office said it was important to move towards a “transformational climate-friendly future that spreads prosperity to all”, as he called for citizens, corporate leaders, technological innovators and investors to lend their support to this effort.

In total, 195 countries, including 147 national leaders, are represented at the UN climate conference, which aims to reach a deal to prevent and mitigate the harmful impacts of climate change. Commonwealth member countries – representing a quarter of the governments present - have already submitted 50 pledges with mitigation measures covering 17 per cent of global emissions of greenhouse gases.

The summit follows the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, held between 27-29 November, at which leaders vowed to work towards an “ambitious, equitable, inclusive, balanced, rules-based and durable outcome” to the Paris negotiations.

The Commonwealth leaders’ statement unites us in pursuit of the goal of holding the increase global temperature below 2 or 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels,” Mr Muscat said during his address. “We hope that such an outcome, according equal importance to mitigation and adaptation, will mobilise all parties in its implementation and put the global community on track towards low-emission and climate-resilient societies and economies.”

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, leaders committed to play their part in meeting a US$100 billion annual target for climate finance by 2020. Member countries agreed the launch of a Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub to help vulnerable small island states gain greater access to climate action funds. In addition, a Commonwealth Green Finance Facility initiative to guarantee financing for small-scale environmental projects was also announced, which will seek investment from sovereign wealth funds and pension funds.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said the new pledges would help some of the most vulnerable countries in the Commonwealth. “Thirty one of our 53 members are small states and 25 are small island developing states, which are most vulnerable to climate change.

“Many of our members are struggling to cope with the devastating effects of climate change. Islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean are having to deal with rising sea levels that could drive them from their homelands, and an onslaught of increased violent storms that is hampering their development.”

The Malta summit was attended by François Hollande, President of France and host of COP21, alongside United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said he was “encouraged by the strong commitment of leaders of Commonwealth”.

The UN Secretary-General said he was hopeful for a positive outcome to the negotiations in Paris. “The stars seem to be aligning in the same direction. There is a strong commitment, not only from the government but from the business communities and civil society,” he said.

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