At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London the UK government said it would provide an extra US$11.2 million for climate action and mitigation projects around the world
Commonwealth leaders have also agreed on a bold, co-ordinated push to protect the ocean from the effects of climate change, pollution and over-fishing.
The 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, the Commonwealth Secretariat said in a statement.
It follows overwhelming support by member countries at the UN Oceans Conference in New York last year at which Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland proposed a collaborative approach to action on ocean governance and conservation.
Fiji is to champion climate change action for the oceans, including ‘blue’ carbon sequestration by coastal vegetation and the development of resilient, low-carbon coastal cities.
Other countries have committed themselves in specific areas:
- Australia, Belize and Mauritius will spearhead the protection and restoration of coral reefs.
- United Kingdom and Vanuatu will lead on tackling ocean plastics, supported by the UK’s £60m (F$175.74) commitment to a Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance.
- Sri Lanka will initiate collaboration on mangrove restoration.
- Cyprus will offer its experience and expertise on the sustainable development of aquaculture.
- Kenya will pioneer the development of ‘blue’ economic growth.
- New Zealand will champion action on ocean acidification caused by man-made C02 emissions.
Further action groups are likely to focus on topics such as maritime security, offshore emergency response and aquaculture.
The goals of the action groups are to cross-promote shared technical, scientific and policy solutions to effect broader implementation and change.
Speaking at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London, Baroness Scotland, said: “Member countries have told us they need to work together to sustain the health of our ocean.
“Blue ecosystems are being degraded at an unprecedented rate and this is not an issue any country can solve alone.
“The Commonwealth Blue Charter will undoubtedly change the pace of global efforts on ocean conservation, unlocking the power of 53 nations on what is clearly one of the most pressing causes of our time.”
The Commonwealth Blue Charter mandates the Commonwealth Secretariat to facilitate the programme of work.
Nick Hardman-Mountford, Head of Oceans and Natural Resources said the Commonwealth Blue Charter represents “a significant shift in approach to ocean management connecting high-level commitments with pragmatic action”.
Jeff Ardron, lead adviser on the Commonwealth Blue Charter said: “This announcement is just the beginning. The real action starts now.”
The Commonwealth Blue Charter is underpinned by the Charter of the Commonwealth ensuring that a fair, equitable, inclusive, and sustainable approach is taken to ocean development and protection.
The British Prime Minister Theresa May said Commonwealth countries are also working to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution at sea.
May said Britain and Vanuatu were working together to launch the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance.
She said a series of commitments have already been made by the member states.
“Papua New Guinea has banned plastic bags, Belize will ban plastic bags, forks and other single use items by 2019. New Zealand has announced a ban on microbeads which will come into effect in June.
May added that the Bahamas was planning to ban plastic bags this year, and that the UK had pledged to ban plastic straws, stirrers and plastic stemmed cotton buds.
Vanuatu’s government has already taken action to end access to plastic bags and placed limits on plastic drink bottles in the country.
Its Foreign Minister, Ralph Regenvanu, said Vanuatu was glad for the support it had have received from many other countries who want to join the Alliance.
“We are going to work closely with the United Kingdom, the other co-champion on the issue, to share knowledge, share experiences and try and build up the move to deal with marine litter across the whole world, particularly starting in the Commonwealth countries, of course,” he said.
According to Regenvanu, Vanuatu is about to undertake a study on all the uses of plastic in the country and how the material is disposed of.
- PNC sources