“Act now on climate change” – youth spell it out to Commonwealth leaders

“Act now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change” was the message to more than fifty world leaders gathered in Perth, Australia for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) from October 28 – 30th.

On the second day of the meeting hundreds of  to read out a joint letter to Commonwealth leaders:

“Climate change impacts have already begun to threaten our nations. We value our families, our communities and our cultures, so we value a safe climate future; and for the half of us under 25, we will be living in the world that your actions create for us today.”

The letter also shared stories from people who are on the frontline of climate change, including Tarateiti Uriam Timiti, a 20-year-old woman from the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati. She has witnessed rising sea levels and coastal inundations change the lives and livelihoods of her community. The crowd also heard the story of John Sahid from Freetown, Sierra Leone, who has watched households relying upon rainfall-dependent agriculture struggle to adapt to changing weather patterns.

Climate change is increasingly becoming a key issue for the Commonwealth. Many Commonwealth members are developing nations that contribute little to global carbon emissions. However, they are among the most vulnerable to a predicted increase in more extreme droughts, floods, rising sea levels and spread of infectious diseases.

At the opening of the talks the Commonwealth's 18 African member called on  richer nations to make deeper emission cuts and help provide essential climate finance to help poor farmers become more resilient against increasingly extreme weather. 

Leaders from low-lying Tuvalu in the South Pacific, the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and several Caribbean island states stated that tackling the issue of climate change was at the centre of their agenda for CHOGM. They fear rising sea levels could wipe them off the map.

At the opening of the summit Australia’s Prime Minister announced a new International Centre for Food Security to share Australia’s expertise in food production with the people of Africa, with a particular focus on adapting to climate change. Oxfam welcomed this announcement, saying the centre could play an important role in supporting African countries confront the challenge of food security and reduce hunger.

By the end of the summit, some progress on climate change had been made. CHOGM leaders agreed on a raft of measures to promote action, including a push to find better ways to fund emission reduction and adaptation projects in developing countries. What this will mean in practice will become clearer over the coming months.CHOGM leaders have said they will take these commitments to the upcoming G20 meeting happening later this week and to the UN Climate Summit taking place in Durban, South Africa at the end of the year.

Like Tarateiti, John and the hundreds of people who gathered in Perth over the weekend we urge all leaders to use these upcoming meetings to act together to address climate change.

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