Valletta, Malta: Ahead of the crucial climate conference in Paris, Commonwealth countries have pledged billions of dollars to fight global warming including the highest USD 2 billion assistance by Canada to help developing countries limit green-house gas emissions.
At a special session on climate change at the Commonwealth Summit here, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country will help developing nations combat climate change and boost their clean energy production as he pledged nearly two billion US dollars over five years, doubling its previous commitment.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat unveiled a USD 1 billion Commonwealth Green Finance Facility to support environmental projects within the 53-nation bloc, which met in this picturesque Mediterranean island city in South of Europe.
Separately, the UK has committed 21 million pounds for disaster management and 5.5 million pounds for the ocean-based economy.
Australia has committed USD 1 million for a new Commonwealth idea — a Climate Finance Access Hub.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj represented India at the summit of the 53-nation grouping which focused mainly on ways to tackle terrorism and combat climate change.
India has been consistently maintaining that developed countries must ensure financing and technology transfer to developing countries to help them bringing down carbon emission.
During negotiations, India took the lead in articulating concerns of the developing countries in finalising approach of the Commonwealth countries in dealing with climate change.
It argued that any ambitious statement emanating from the Commonwealth should be tempered with realism as the discussions in the run up to the COP 21 at Paris have been complex and difficult.
Indian officials argued that the Commonwealth must not pre-judge outcome of the negotiations leading to Paris climate conference and that commitment of the rich nations towards small islands and poor countries must go beyond the current level.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said the financial assistance 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,” he said.
The USD 1 billion fund announced by Muscat would be generated initially through sovereign contributions and then through green bonds.
The funding will help support cutting green-house gas emissions in most vulnerable countries. Trudeau said, “Canada is back and ready to play its part in combating climate change, and this includes helping the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world adapt. The investment announced today will help build a more environmentally sustainable future for generations to come.”
The Commonwealth has proposed a novel way to stimulate climate action: trading debt relief for fresh activities to limit carbon emissions or address climate change.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon supported the idea during the special session. He encouraged heads of government to raise their level of ambition on climate change, and warned that failure to act now will “ruin” internationally agreed sustainable development goals.
French President Francois Hollande was a guest at the special session. Speaking at a press conference, Hollande urged leaders to “face our responsibility” and “reach an overall agreement on climate change.”
“Man is the worst enemy of man,” he said. “We can say it with terrorism, but we can say the same when it comes to climate. Human beings are betraying nature, damaging the environment. It is therefore up to human beings to face up to their responsibilities. It is a duty for mankind to be able, in the days to come, to reach an agreement, a binding agreement, a universal agreement and one that is ambitious,” Hollande added.
British Prime Minister Cameron announced around 26 million pounds for climate projects in 25 small island states.
“Today, we have a real opportunity to get the small island states that are so vulnerable to climate change on board for an ambitious global climate change deal in Paris.
“Britain is firmly committed to helping these countries deal with the effects of climate change and that’s why we’re announcing new support today to help protect them from the risks of climate change and to make the most of their natural maritime advantages which are so vital to their economies,” he said.
The Commonwealth countries are home to around 2.2 billion people of which over 60 per cent are under the age of 30.
The grouping includes some of the world’s largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries. Thirty-one of its members are small states, many of them island nations.
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