The leaders of nations belonging to the Commonwealth should continue to prioritise climate change and the mitigation of dangerous emissions with the same urgency they did pre-Covid-19, says the Commonwealth of Nations (Commonwealth).
The organisation states that, even with the Covid-19 pandemic still prevailing around the world, it should not change the fact that the world also continues to face an ever-growing environmental emergency.
"Indeed, Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of governments working together and we must build on this global response to address the climate crisis," it states.
On the occasion of World Environment Day, on June 5, and in a month when Commonwealth leaders would have gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the organisation calls on governments to continue to address the joint challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.
World leaders also need to ensure that global economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is environmentally sustainable across the Commonwealth and internationally.
The Commonwealth notes that Covid-19 has had a profound impact internationally, affecting people’s health and health services, impacting the global economy, and exacerbating social and economic inequalities.
In this regard, the organisation states that international cooperation and effective policy are essential for tackling the virus and for ensuring a successful economic recovery.
Further, the Commonwealth states that action needs to be taken on the urgent and interlinked challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and that sustainable energy provision presents economic, social and environmental opportunities for the whole Commonwealth.
To address these issues, the Commonwealth suggests that heads of governments use the opportunities of the Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 and COP 15 to coordinate discussions on the joint challenges of climate change and biodiversity and recognise their inherently interlinked nature.
They should also work with the global research community to identify scientific and holistic approaches for addressing climate change and biodiversity without causing unintended damage.
In addition, the Commonwealth notes that world leaders also need to grasp the opportunity of a decarbonised economy and its benefits for people and life on Earth, as well as ensure a resilient and environmentally sustainable recovery from Covid-19.
The wellbeing of people across the world has improved significantly over the last century. In particular, a reduction in poverty levels, improved technological advancements and expanded educational and economic opportunities have increased living standards for many, both across the Commonwealth and elsewhere.
However, the Commonwealth notes that these improvements in human development have come at a cost and there has been a huge impact on climate change and biodiversity, with international temperature increases now predicated to be significantly higher than 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels on current emissions trajectories.
These increases in global temperature will be associated with an increase in the occurrence of extreme weather events at the local, regional and global scales. In addition, current extinction rates of known species are at an all-time high, and the abundance of wild organisms is declining worldwide across all observed groups, including fish, corals, birds, mammals, insects, amphibians and plants.
The Commonwealth points out that this has a significant impact on ecosystems, the services they provide to humanity, such as food, pollination, and water purification, as well as on its resilience to climate change hazards.
These changes are already well under way. Failure to tackle these combined challenges in the increasingly narrowing timescale required will pose significant risks to human development and welfare, societal inequalities, and impact all Commonwealth countries, particularly those that are most vulnerable. Governments must therefore take urgent action to address these issues.
However, taking certain action now creates strong opportunities for human development within Commonwealth countries, the organisation notes. These include delivering sustainable economic growth in high-productivity sectors and providing cheap, clean energy to off-grid communities; improving public health by addressing the adverse impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss; and greater public engagement through empowering local communities and future generations.
In all cases, careful planning and action is needed and this requires movement now, including further research to narrow uncertainties where they remain large; work to translate research and development solutions into policy; and international leadership, which has been clear, but not yet met with the necessary scale of action across the Commonwealth and beyond.