Climate change will be high on the agenda when Commonwealth Heads of Government meet in Rwanda this year - more than three decades after their predecessors recognised the threat and drew up a visionary action plan to avert the crisis.
The Langkawi Declaration takes its name from the Malaysian seaside town, where Commonwealth leaders anticipated the crisis facing the world today and agreed on a joint strategy.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland made a special visit to Langkawi to remember the foresight and resolve shown in the declaration, and how history was made.
In commemoration, a park was built in the shape of the CHOGM logo where all Heads of Government planted a tree - each of which still stand in the park today.
Speaking from CHOGM Park, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said the leaders who met in Langkawi in 1989 were ahead of their time:
“The Commonwealth has long been on the frontline in advocating for action to protect the environment and address climate change,” she said.
“Malaysia represents a significant milestone in the Commonwealth’s efforts, as it is here in Langkawi in 1989, that the Commonwealth leaders signalled their commitment through the Commonwealth Langkawi Declaration on the Environment.
“These efforts gained increased momentum at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta 2015 where leaders agreed to take action to limit global warming to 2 degrees.
“This joint decision was instrumental in building momentum towards securing the historic Paris Accord.”
One of the key courses of action outlined in the Langkawi Declaration is the prevention of marine pollution and dumping of toxic waste into the ocean.
Thirty years later, deeper awareness of how action or inaction will affect the future of the ocean is now firmly embedded in all Commonwealth engagement.
The Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub is helping small states secure climate finance for enhancing ambitious climate action, accessing to date more than USD 30 million for member states.
The Commonwealth Blue Charter, which was adopted in 2018, includes commitments to rid the ocean of plastic, and to ensure its resources are used in ways that do not cause further damage to marine life.
As the Secretary-General stood by the tree planted by former Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Dr. Kennedy Simmons she called on member states to raise ambitions for COP26.
“As we look ahead to COP26, we know that urgent action, raised ambition and increased commitment is required because climate change is already having adverse impacts across the Commonwealth, reversing hard-earned development gains.
"In the same breath, action must also be taken to deliver the promised finances and support required to adequately deal with the challenge of climate change, this is especially important for disproportionally affected."