Commonwealth summit opens with climate change as top agenda

Port of Spain, Nov 27 ( The 53-nation Commonwealth Summit opened here Friday with a renewed push towards achieving “political consensus” on climate change, weeks ahead of the United Nations convention in Copenhagen.

“Amidst the wreckage created by a series of global crises, the looming existential catastrophe of climate change, the pernicious poison of poverty and disease, the strangling of so much entitlement and opportunity, the Commonwealth has to prove itself worthy,” Kamalesh Sharma, the Commonwealth Secretary General, said in his opening address.

Putting climate change on top of the agenda at the Commonwealth conference, Sharma stressed that the 53-nation body will make a restatement of “shared responsibilities towards the preservation of our planet”.

“Finally – we must respond to the call of this meeting for partnership in pursuit of equity and sustainability. We are already a network of partnerships: The Queen once memorably referred to us as ‘the original World Wide Web’,” he said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen are participating as special guests at the 63rd CHOGM summit to give political push to a statement on climate change weeks before the 192-nation global conference on climate change begins.

Host Prime Minister Patrick Manning told a press conference that there will be a special meeting on climate change soon after the ceremonial opening, where the leaders of the grouping will outline their positions on the effects of climate change on their countries.

“The Commonwealth comprises countries from both the developed world, who are some of the largest polluters, to countries that are small and threatened by the effects of climate change and therefore a statement from countries as diverse as those you will find in the Commonwealth is a statement that will be much more reflective of the world opinion.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to underline India’s support for “a comprehensive and balanced outcome” at the Dec 7-18 Copenhagen conference when he speaks at the summit here later in the day.

India will push for equitable and collaborative solutions to issues linked with climate change, Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Climate Change Shyam Saran told reporters here.

Linking energy security with climate change, Saran said India backed a strategic shift from fossil fuel-based growth to low carbon prosperity.

India is aiming at an outcome which is in consonance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the Bali action plan which is based on the differential responsibilities of developed and developing countries, Saran said.

Responding to China announcing reduction in intensity of carbon emissions, India said it has always believed in voluntary mitigation acts and was ready to record it in a national communication to the UNFCC.

Mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology are four pillars of any climate change regime. In each of these categories, India wants a comprehensive and balanced outcome, Saran said.

“We are hoping for a strong consensus message from the Commonwealth to the Copenhagen conference about the need for a balanced and equitable outcome,” Saran said.

India has consistently maintained it wants developed countries to take deeper cuts and refused to accept any reduction target on grounds that it would affect prospects of economic growth in developing countries.