VALLETTA, Malta – A climate change agreement signed by the Commonwealth has made clinching a deal at the upcoming Paris COP21 talks more likely, the 53-country organization said Sunday, November 29. (READ: What’s happening in Paris in December? 10 things to know)
"The fact that we have achieved convergence and near unanimity on a very focused statement on climate change puts the possibility of a success at COP21 in better shape," Commonwealth summit host Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said at the close of a 3-day gathering on the Mediterranean island.
Though global warming topped the agenda at the 2015 summit, world leaders also tackled the hot-button issues of extremism, corruption and migration.
Heads of government from the Commonwealth family, which represents around a third of the world's population, on Saturday pledged to demand an "ambitious" and legally binding outcome from the world climate change summit in Paris, which starts officially on Monday.
The Commonwealth said it was "deeply concerned" about the disproportionate threat from an ever-hotter planet to its most vulnerable members - many of whom said reaching a deal was "a matter of life and death."
'Prepare for disaster'
It launched a Climate Finance Access Hub aimed at smaller island states that want to get access to funds to mitigate against the effects of climate change, with Australia, Britain, Canada, and India pledging billions of dollars.
"Climate change unites us, it puts us all in the same canoe. If a big wave comes, that canoe is going to be washed away with everyone in it," President Baron Waqa of Nauru warned at a closing press conference.
Freundel Stuart, the prime minister of Barbados, called on Paris attendees to wake up, saying leaders no longer had the luxury of arguing over whether global warming was a threat.
"When the planet speaks we have no choice but to listen, and it has been speaking to us with a daunting eloquence over the last few years. If we don't reach a sensible agreement in Paris we can all prepare for disaster," he said.
Because its membership includes industrialized G7 powers like Britain and Canada, emerging giants like India and tiny island microstates such as the Maldives, agreement in the Commonwealth has historically boded well for deals being struck beyond its bounds.
The organization said it was confident its agreement would "put the global community on track towards low-emission and climate-resilient societies and economies."
Some 150 leaders will kick off the UN conference in Paris, tasked with reaching the first truly universal climate pact.
The goal is to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by curbing fossil fuel emissions.
Small island members of the Commonwealth have insisted the 2-degree limit does not go far enough, and called repeatedly this weekend for a 1.5-degree cap to be adopted.
The Malta summit emphasized the link between global warming and migration, warning that "worsening impacts of climate change will increase climate-induced migration" - meaning wealthy nations will be increasingly affected by the fate of developing countries.
While the movement of peoples could deliver economic and social benefits, the Commonwealth said it was "deeply concerned" by the increase in flows of refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants and it was committed to "responding decisively".
There was a determination to "increase cooperation to defend and protect the values that we all cherish -- democracy and good governance - against the threats that seek to roll them back like terrorism and climate change," Ghana's President John Mahama said.
In a bid to tackle the rise of violent extremism, the organization said it was "imperative to counter the use of the Internet by extremist groups to radicalize and recruit fighters."
A new Commonwealth unit was set up to try and prevent young people from becoming radicalized, primarily through education and civil society networks.
The leaders also discussed combating corruption - with British Prime Minister David Cameron insisting it was linked to radicalization - and promised "enhanced transparency and collaboration among law enforcement bodies.” – Rappler.com