Decisive climate action, rooted in sharp honesty is needed now – Secretary-General 

09 December 2023
Press release
Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, speaking at the High-Level Segment at COP28

Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, has made her strongest statement yet on the urgency of the compound global crises unfolding as a result of climate change.

Decisive action, rooted in the sharpest honesty is the only way forward, she said. “We are locked in a war with the planet we all share, with devastating consequences for our people, prosperity, peace and prospects.” 

The Secretary-General was speaking at the High-Level Segment of the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai today. 

In her Commonwealth Statement, she warned that the stability of the earth’s climate, on which humanity has depended, is in peril, with unknown consequences:

“The breakdown of that stability – with extremes of heat, drought, storms, floods and fires the like of which we have never seen, and challenges for humanity the like of which we have never known - is our responsibility.”  

She urged action to reduce emissions, accelerate the energy transition, and restore the natural world. Donors, she added, must keep their climate finance promises to vulnerable countries, such as the Commonwealth’s small states, which are on the frontlines of climate change.  

“Today, their calls reverberate with an urgency which cannot be ignored,” the Secretary-General told leaders.

Climate injustice

Developing countries and small island states suffer a multitude of climate-related injustices. They are among the world’s lowest carbon emitters and contribute the least to climate change yet are often the most susceptible to the impacts of extreme weather events and less able to adapt and mitigate.

Not only are they dealing with the aftermath of climate disasters, but they also face high borrowing costs for recovery.  

Commonwealth action

The Commonwealth has pushed for greater climate action since 1989, when leaders committed to protecting the environment in the Langkawi Declaration. It was one of the world’s first collective statements to name greenhouse gas emissions as a leading problem facing the planet. 

Since then, the Commonwealth has advocated for international policies, mechanisms and rules to be more responsive to the development needs of climate-vulnerable member countries. 

The Commonwealth supports member countries through dedicated programmes by facilitating human and institutional capacity development, including on climate finance, disaster risk management, and satellite mapping.

Read the Commonwealth Secretary-General's Statement to COP28
For more information, follow #CommonwealthForClimate or visit our COP28 hub.

Media contact

  • Snober Abbasi  Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • T: +442077476168  |  E-mail