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Commonwealth heads expected to endorse climate charter

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Leaders of Commonwealth nations are expected to call for increased climate action at a meeting in Rwanda this week, ahead of the United Nations climate change summit in the seaside resort of Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt later this year.

“Tackling climate change will require the most significant political, social and economic effort that the world has ever seen,” Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said, speaking at a meeting on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

Climate change remains a major concern for the bloc. Recent weather events and longer climate term trends, including heatwaves, extreme temperatures, droughts, cyclones, floods and rising sea levels, afflict most of its member states.

Britain’s Prince Charles, representing Queen Elizabeth II as the ceremonial head of the Commonwealth, is also expected to champion the bloc’s global climate action. Commonwealth leaders are set to adopt the much-awaited “Living Lands Charter” later this week, an action plan to address climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss.

“The Living Lands Charter is a testament to our commitment. It helps to encapsulate our combined effort to hold the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit),” Scotland said.

According to the charter’s concept note, obtained by The Associated Press, the Commonwealth’s commitments will focus on five main themes: climate-resilient agriculture for food security, soil and water conservation, green cover and biodiversity, climate-resilient livestock rearing, and climate-resilient development for indigenous people. In what’s billed as a “five-by-five” approach, it aims to achieve its climate goals through a mixture of policy influence, financing, technical assistance, governance and sharing knowledge across nations.

The Commonwealth brings together 54 member states representing a combined population of 2.5 billion people, most of which were former British colonies. It claims that if the charter is endorsed and implemented in full, it will “protect and manage a quarter of the world’s landmass.”

The charter is also calling for “greater consideration on inclusion of indigenous peoples” in countries’ voluntary, nationally determined contributions on climate action.

Some 32 of the Commonwealth’s 54 member nations are small states with 25 of them being small islands and developing states classified as vulnerable to climate change. The island states at the forefront of climate action have already called on the Commonwealth to strengthen measures on oceans.

“The oceans and climate are inextricably interconnected, and the health of our oceans dictates the livelihoods of millions of people around the world,” said Jitoko Tikolevu, a Fijian diplomat. “Our answer is simple, we need action.”

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Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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