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COP21 signing: Commonwealth reaffirms commitment to climate action

21 April 2016

On 22 April, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland will witness the signing of the landmark global agreement to tackle climate change at United Nations headquarters.

An outcome of the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015, the agreement saw 195 countries adopt the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal.

Tomorrow countries are expected to put their signatures to the agreement, which sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to below two degrees Celsius.

Reaffirming the Commonwealth’s commitment to support members to tackle climate change, the Secretary-General said: “I am particularly proud of the role the Commonwealth played in the success of this deal. Just days before this historic agreement, Commonwealth Leaders issued a Statement on Climate Action, with a commitment to a climate change ‘speed limit’ of two degrees and aspirations for 1.5 degrees. We went to Paris, big and small, rich and poor, united in our aims and were able to truly amplify the voices of the small states who are worst affected by climate change.”

She added: “Today we celebrate what is officially day one of the journey to the implementation of the Paris agreement. But the Commonwealth has already had a head start. Our Multilateral Debt Swap for Climate Action proposal, which will address both debt and climate change and our pioneering Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, agreed at the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, will ensure small and vulnerable states with acute capacity needs can successfully bid for climate action funding.”

The Commonwealth has a strong track record of leadership on collective action on environmental issues, which dates back to 1989 when it adopted the Langkawi declaration on the environment.

Since then the intergovernmental body has facilitated the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small-Island Developing States (SIDS) in 1994, and in 2009 Commonwealth Heads signed the Port of Spain Climate Change Consensus: The Commonwealth Climate Change Declaration. This declaration had a decisive impact on COP15 in Copenhagen.

Secretary-General Scotland said: “Most of the world will be represented at this signing ceremony and despite what the critics say, I believe that each signature represents a recognition of the scale of the problem and a national commitment to take action.

“We are saying to our member countries, you are not alone in the climate change challenge. The Commonwealth will be with you every step of the way, as you work towards achieving your climate action goals.”