As the world enters a critical decade for our climate, Commonwealth Member States and institutions must come together: demonstrating a united front and decisive leadership at the forthcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November (COP26).
The Commonwealth has an irreplaceable role to play. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) make up almost half of its total membership. Citizens of these vulnerable countries are literally on the frontlines of the fight against global warming. Nowhere else does the climate crisis feel more urgent or more real: rising sea levels and shifting weather patterns are already posing serious threats to the livelihoods of small island populations throughout the Commonwealth.
The small island experience serves as a demonstration, and a warning, for what lies in store for the world—unless we act now.
The political and technical challenges ahead are formidable. To turn the tide on spiralling global temperatures States must loudly affirm commitments already made under the Paris Agreement. Collaboration on both adaptation and mitigation must be accelerated. And the international community must rally to deliver urgent support to the small island states that are being forced to carry a disproportionate, unfair burden. This group of countries has played a leading role in raising awareness of the climate emergency on the international stage and advocating for strong climate action. They have succeeded in building a common diplomatic discourse and influencing strategy. They need and deserve whole-of-Commonwealth support.
This Critical Conversation is a call to arms. It brings together activists, thought leaders and policymakers to confront the challenges—and take advantage of the opportunities—that lie ahead, most especially in relation to small islands states. It interrogates the role that the Commonwealth could play – should play – in placing the needs of this group of States front and centre in international negotiations.
• Asad Rehman: Executive Director War on Want
• Ambassador Dessima Williams: Grenadian diplomat and scholar
• Hon. Ralph Regenvanu: Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu
• Richard Kozul-Wright: Director of the Globalisation and Development Strategies Division UNCTAD Online
• Angelique Pouponneau: Seychellois lawyer and environmentalist