Today began a three-day summit, celebrating the 60th anniversary Commonwealth Heads of Government, hosted by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Patrick Manning. The only topic on the agenda for the summit’s first day is climate change and the future of island nations, many of which are threatened by rising sea levels. Prime Minister Manning said that the meeting intends to send a firm message in favor of cooperation to limit global warming and curb carbon emissions ahead of UN climate change talks due in Copenhagen on December 7-18. He said the Commonwealth’s wide membership, bringing together wealthy industrialized nations like Britain, Canada, and Australia, with some of the world’s smallest and most vulnerable states, made the group especially “reflective of world opinion” in the climate change debate, adding that, “what we can do is raise our voices politically.”
Queen Elizabeth II, who acknowledged her hosts at a pre-summit dinner by wearing a gown featuring two of the Caribbean nation’s national birds and its national flower, opened the Trinidad meeting, saying that the Commonwealth had an opportunity to lead once more on climate change. The Queen stated that “The threat to our environment is not a new concern but it is now a global challenge which will continue to affect the security and stability of millions for years to come [. . .]. Many of those affected are among the most vulnerable and many of the people least well able to withstand the adverse effects of climate change live in the Commonwealth.” Around half of the 53-nation Commonwealth group (comprising about two billion people), mainly former British colonies, are island nations scattered across the world’s oceans. Some of these fear “they could be swamped or even literally wiped off the map in coming decades if sea levels rise as a result of worsening climate change.”
Although most nations have given up hopes of agreeing to a final binding legal climate treaty text in Copenhagen, prospects for a broad political agreement have been brightened this week by public promises of greenhouse gas curbs by China and the United States, the world’s biggest single emitters. India, for example, has admitted that China’s decision to unveil emissions targets two weeks before the Copenhagen summit has put it under pressure. Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said China’s decision was a “wake-up call to India.” Non-Commonwealth leaders UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen have also been invited to address the summit. The sought-after treaty to fight global warming, now expected to be adopted as a final text only next year, will replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012.
Photo of Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, and Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta posing with other leaders in Port-Of-Spain from http://www.daylife.com/topic/Patrick_Manning