Commonwealth leaders welcomed a US$10 billion annual package for developing countries ahead of the landmark United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen this December.
Leaders of the 53 countries, among them President Mohamed Nasheed, issued a declaration committing to “achieving the strongest possible outcome” in the Danish capital.
“The latest scientific evidence indicates that in order to avoid dangerous climate change likely to have catastrophic impacts we must find solutions using all available means,” the declaration stated. “We must act now.”
Participants at the two-day annual Commonwealth meeting in Trinidad and Tobago agreed that an international legally binding agreement at Copenhagen was essential and pledged their support to Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen to deliver a comprehensive treaty.
Negotiations over the past two years have virtually stalled with developed and developing countries unable to agree on the level of emission cuts and financial assistance to be given.
However a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Hu Jintao earlier this month breathed new life into the climate change talks as each agreed to lobby for a legally binding deal at Copenhagen.
In their declaration, leaders of the Commonwealth agreed that developed countries should continue to take the lead on cutting their emissions.
“And developing countries, in line with their national circumstances, should also take action to achieve a substantial deviation from business-as-usual emissions with financial and technical support,” the declaration said.
Commonwealth heads welcomed the initiative to establish a Copenhagen Launch Fund to start next year and building to US$10 billion a year by 2012.
The goal received backing by French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who said the UK would contribute US$1.3 billion over the next three years.
“The rest of Europe will do so,” Brown said at the Commonwealth summit. “And I believe American will do so as well.”
US Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “We need to get every country on board.”
Leaders also called for fast funding for the poorest countries as well as those most vulnerable to climate change and requested that 10 per cent of the fund be put aside for small island states and associated low-lying coastal states.
“The needs of the most vulnerable must be addressed. Their voice must be heard and capacity to engage strengthened. Many of us from small island states, low-lying coastal states and least developed countries face challenges, yet have contributed least to the problem of climate change,” the declaration said.
Scientists said last week the effects of climate change were being felt faster than anticipated and oceans were rising by 3.4 mm per year, greater than predicted.
As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, the Maldives is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. In 2007, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that sea level rises of up to 59 cm within a century would swamp many of the Maldives’ 1,192 coral islands.
“My country would not survive,” said Nasheed at a conference of vulnerable nations earlier this month. “The sums of money on offer are so low, it is like arriving at an earthquake zone with a dustpan and brush,” he added.
In their declaration, Commonwealth heads further called for support for adaptation, technology transfer and capacity building in addition to financial assistance.