Global Climate Woes Dominate Commonwealth Talks

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[Global: The Commonwealth Conference]

--Issues of climate change and how to reduce the world’s carbon emissions have completely hijacked this year’s agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting that opened Friday. The whole day saw French President Nicholas Sakorzy, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon take turns in addressing the press in between doing rounds with the Commonwealth leaders.

Addressing a special session on climate change at CHOGM, Mr. Rasmussen said this was a unique opportunity to discuss the global nature of climate change and the collective responsibility leaders have in addressing it forcefully. He added: “I am particularly looking forward to engaging with a forum where so many of you come from countries where climate change is not only something scientists talk about in the news, but a stark reality in everyday life.

Denmark like France are not CHOGM members but both these countries’ leaders have taken it upon themselves to woe doubters that would put next month’s climate change summit in Copenhagen at risk of failure. But Mr. Rasmussen said: “I know that for many of you, climate change represents an immediate existential threat. You cannot afford the luxury of a failure in Copenhagen. This makes the challenge we are facing in Copenhagen very real.”

While Rasmussen was addressing CHOGM leaders, French President Sakorzy rushed to call a press conference in which he warned that failure in Copenhagen next month is unthinkable, it would be a disaster for the world.  He said there was ‘a tremendous sense of urgency’ surrounding the UN summit next month. He told a parked press conference: “We can’t afford to miss the opportunity. It is imperative that heads of state and government are present on December 18/19 in Copenhagen.

He revealed that during lunch with Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, he was confident that the Indian leader would make it to Copenhagen. In almost similar fashion he said he had approached South African President Jacob Zuma and asked him to travel to Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change Summit saying that with leaders of poor countries ‘weighing in’, Copenhagen would be a success. Mr. Sakorzy promised to help poorer countries to financially face up to the challenges of global warming.

The French President proposed the setting up of a world environmental organization and a Fairness Climate Plan, whose priority would be to combat deforestation, adding that decisions on mechanisms for monitoring decisions and commitments were imperative. With regard to the Copenhagen summit, Mr. Sakorzy said: “We either succeed or fail. There are 20 days left until the start of the two-week summit and 20 days ahead to shift things further down the line.”

Throughout his press conference, the French President repeated time and again his warning that failure in Copenhagen next month was simply something that no one ought to even to contemplate. Asked by one reporter whether he thought the absence of US President Barack Obama would result into the failure of the summit, President Sakorzy replied: “We have to be together at some time. If no decision is taken in Copenhagen, it will be a historic failure. Seven to eight binding decisions will have to be taken. We either take all the decisions or none. 

Asked about development issues versus climate change, Mr. Sakorzy replied: “Nobody should have to choose between growth and protecting the environment. We need sustainable growth. That is what the leaders will be calling for in Copenhagen. The only choice is sustainable growth and carbon-free growth.”

Within an hour, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also weighed in on climate change and announced that his country would contribute a share in climate change between now and 2013. It would help bridge the gap to when an effective global climate change financing arrangement is expected to begin.

Even Queen Elizabeth II could not be left behind on the issue of global warming. In her speech while opening CHOGM 2009, she said the Commonwealth has an opportunity to lead once more.

She said while the environmental threat was not a new one, it was now a global challenge that will affect security and stability in the years ahead. She pointed to the fact that most of the countries under threat are the most vulnerable and are least able to withstand the adverse effect of climate change. The summit continues today and ends Sunday afternoon.

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