Port of Spain, Trinidad – South African President Jacob Zuma admits that before to coming to Trinidad for the bi-annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), he met with its secretary general, Kamalesh Sharma, to discuss the relevance of the grouping in today’s evolving global power structure.
But at the end of their three-day meeting on Sunday, Zuma said, “I think some of my questions have been answered,” noting that the manner in which the summit dealt with the issue of climate change “indicates we are dealing with a CHOGM of today”.
The Port of Spain Climate Change Consensus that Commonwealth leaders adopted was reached at the end of a special meeting also attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.
The Commonwealth is an association of mostly former British colonies in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
Participants said they want the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, to be held in Copenhagen early next month, to address the urgent needs of developing countries by providing new financing, support for adaptation, technology transfer, capacity building, and incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
“We need an ambitious mitigation outcome at Copenhagen to reduce the risks of dangerous climate change without compromising the legitimate development aspirations of developing countries,” the declaration said.
“We stress our common conviction that urgent and substantial action to reduce global emissions is needed and have a range of views as to whether average global temperature should be constrained to below 1.5 degrees or to no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” it said, in a tacit indication of the reluctance of some members to commit to deep emissions cuts.
Ban Ki-moon said his message to the world leaders ahead of Copenhagen is to remain focused and come to Denmark “and seal a deal…that is ambitious, a deal that is equitable, a deal that satisfies the demands of science”.
Sarkozy told reporters that there are seven or eight decisions that needed to be taken in Copenhagen and that all leaders should be present, especially on Dec. 17-18 when final decisions would be taken.
“Let me tell you my deeply felt position, it is either we take all the decisions or we take none…because we need to strike the right balance,” he said.
Sarkozy’s brief visit stemmed from a climate change policy his country has adopted with Brazil ahead of Copenhagen summit. The accord between France and Brazil emphasises the final objective of a global reduction of at least 50 percent by 2050 of damaging greenhouse gases.
The French president said that the figures put forward by China were very promising, adding the “technical elements that we have show …the emission reduction curve is very comparable to that of the United States and that of Europe”.
“This could be a solution for Europe if we decided to go even further than we have gone so far,” he said, adding that he had been given an assurance by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that his country would not produce more carbon than the average carbon of other countries.
He said that over the past few days “things have started to shift [and] we have entered into a very active negotiation phase”.
Trinidad’s Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who chaired the CHOGM, said that the Port of Spain declaration was as a result of the concerns of Commonwealth leaders that “the objectives which we set for ourselves as a world could be achieved at Copenhagen”.
“I am very pleased to say that the Commonwealth heads of government meeting here in Port of Spain …have come to a conclusion on this matter,” he said, describing the event as “a significant success”.
Sharma said that he was pleased with the commitment of Commonwealth countries on climate change, noting that in the past “there had been heavy traffic on the road to Copenhagen [and] the good news is that it is converging and we will have one road to travel”.
In their Port of Spain consensus, the Commonwealth leaders welcomed Britain’s offer of a proposed Copenhagen Launch Fund starting next year “to a level of resources of 10 billion dollars annually by 2012”.
They said that the fast start fund for adaptation should be focused on the most vulnerable countries, and also welcomed a proposal to provide “immediate fast disbursing assistance with a dedicated system for small island states and associated low-lying coastal states of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) of at least 10 per cent of the fund”.
“We also recognise the need for further, specified and comparable funding streams, to assist the poorest and most vulnerable countries, to cope with, and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. We recognise that funding will be scaled up beyond 2012,” the leaders said.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said that the fund represents a “bottom line to getting an agreement” on climate change in Copenhagen and promised that Wellington will provide 10 to 50 million dollars to the fund.
“The reality of climate change is that there will be a lot of movement to help islands affected by climate change,” Key said.
But Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo says the proposed fund must be viewed as interim financing for climate change issues.
“We must not lose sight of the main financing proposal,” he told a news conference, adding that studies have shown that it would take about one percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), estimated at 300 billion dollars, to fully provide adaptation, mitigation and technology transfer related to the impacts of climate change.
“We prefer to see this as interim financing pending the expiration of the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol but without losing sight of the larger sums that it would take to address the significant issues of adaptation, mitigation and technology transfer,” Jagdeo said.
He noted that that the World Bank has estimated the adaptation needs of AOSIS at between 75 and 80 billion dollars per year, “and we are [here] talking about ten billion”.
He said he expected some of the financing from the fund will support mitigation options, including interim financing for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), which Guyana and other rainforest countries are pursuing, and the work done by the Informal Working Group set up after the G20 meeting in London in April this year.
Sarkozy said if world leaders are able to establish a World Environment Organisation, it would function as a United Nations agency and as a result there would be a guarantee to all countries that there would not be a different approach towards climate change issues.
“It will be a U.N. agency that would evaluate the assessment of the achievement of every country and we would hold countries to its commitment because after Copenhagen the question will arise as to who is going oversee and who is going to implement the Copenhagen commitments, logically it should be the World Environment Organisation,” he said.
Rasmussen said that as the host country, every effort would be made to ensure that the momentum that has been gained in the past few weeks is not lost.
“I remain optimistic that a deal can be done and we will all benefit if we do agree in Copenhagen,” he added.