By Vishal Gulati
Katowice (Poland), Dec 14 (IANS) Climate change and ocean change is already happening globally. This can no longer be denied. One degree of global warming has already occurred, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said.
Sea surface temperatures have likewise increased, and storm intensities have followed suit, resulting in tragic loss of life and property.
“With scientific evidence and real-world experiences all around us, shall we continue to rely upon the slowest nations of the world to set the pace?” Scotland said at the Fiji-led action group on ocean and climate change on Thursday.
The Commonwealth is attending the UN Climate Change Conference or COP24 being held in this Polish city. Parties to the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) are set to adopt a ‘rulebook’ for the Paris Agreement, which will outline the governing framework and mechanisms for full implementation of the 2015 climate pact.
On the margins of a COP24 meeting, Scotland told IANS in the light of a latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calling for “rapid and far-reaching” actions to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius that any delay in taking action will result in “permanent and irreversible damage”.
The Commonwealth is backing actions by its family of 53 countries to fight climate change. The key action areas include marine plastic pollution, blue economy, coral reef protection and restoration, mangroves and ocean acidification.
Asking more nations to join the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Groups in shifting from the wordsmithing model of international climate governance to one of cooperative and inspired actions, she warned: “It is late, but never too late, to steer clear of the icebergs looming ahead. Thanks to science, the issues are now clearly in sight.”
She told IANS that sea surface temperatures have likewise increased, and storm intensities have followed suit, resulting in tragic loss of life and property. “With scientific evidence and real-world experiences all around us, shall we continue to rely upon the slowest nations of the world to set the pace?”
The Commonwealth includes more than 30 small states, some of them ‘big ocean’ states that are spread throughout the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
“These countries have been experiencing first hand, and on a daily basis, the devastating effects of longstanding climate and ocean denial,” said the first woman Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations who is a Dominican-born lawyer raised in Britain.
Commonwealth leaders in 2018 in London agreed on a bold, coordinated push to protect the ocean from the effects of climate change, pollution and over-fishing.
Their landmark decision to adopt a Commonwealth Blue Charter will affect one third of the world’s national coastal waters, helping to sustain livelihoods and ecosystems globally.
Praising Fiji for the exemplary leadership during its COP Presidency in 2017, Scotland said the linkage between the ocean and climate change has solidified.
“Though there is still much work ahead of us, the ocean is at long last ‘in the room’ and should not be disregarded in future UNFCCC negotiations,” she said.
Having experienced the tragic effects of the tsunami in 2004, Sri Lanka has come to the fore in recognizing the value of mangrove forests in protecting its coastal communities.
“In April 2018, Sri Lanka stepped forward to lead a Blue Charter Action Group on mangrove restoration. Twelve of our countries have stepped forward to lead or co-lead nine action groups.”
Eight Commonwealth advisors in Africa — Eswatini, Mauritius and Namibia; the Caribbean — Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Jamaica; and Pacific — Tonga and Vanuatu, have so far secured 4.15 million pounds in climate finance with a further 207 million pounds of pipeline projects.
“We want to do more, we must do more. We now need to do more — faster and better — to win the race against time and save our common earth,” Scotland added.
(Vishal Gulati is in Katowice at the invitation of Climate Trends to cover the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP24. He can be contacted at [email protected])