Heads of Government of the Commonwealth convened for 2 1/2 days in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad over the weekend amid severe challenges facing the world, the most significant of which are the global economic crisis and the urgent need to forge a collective response to the creeping disaster of global warming. 49 of the 53 member countries were represented at the meeting.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade will, in due course, table a Ministry Paper providing details of the deliberations that were conducted and the decisions taken. However, I wish to apprise the House of the position taken by the Heads on the issue that took up more of our deliberations than any other issue – climate change.
The meeting was convened on the eve of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held later this month in Copenhagen, perhaps the most anticipated international conference in recent times. The conference was expected to be the climax of a two-year negotiating process following the 13th Conference in Bali in December 2007 and the adoption of the Bali Action Plan. That plan had identified the critical components of global cooperation for sustained existence and sustainable development: mitigation, adaptation, financing, application of technology and capacity building.
The widely-shared hope was for an agreement in Copenhagen on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol whose first commitment period ends in 2012. Regrettably, the negotiations have not so far produced a consensus that would secure a legally binding agreement and the expectations of the outcome of Copenhagen have, therefore, been scaled back.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government were unanimous that efforts toward securing a binding agreement on climate control must be strengthened. Our deliberations benefited from presentations by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen of Denmark who will be chairing the Copenhagen Conference. All three were specially invited to address the conference.
The danger to the planet of global warming and the catastrophes it will produce if left unchecked including the uninhabilitability of parts of the world, particularly some small island states is not the alarmist warnings of over-zealous scientists. It is a real danger confirmed not only by scientific data but also by actual accumulated experience.
Climatic behaviour and sea levels are determined by changes in the earth’s temperature which, in turn, is determined by the extent to which the atmosphere retains heat. The major contributor to the increased heat retention in the atmosphere is the emission of greenhouse gases arising from human activities, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), to which the burning of fossil fuels is the most significant contributor. Some of these gases remain suspended in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Over time, therefore, the world has accumulated more and more of these gases, retaining more and more heat, producing higher and higher temperatures. Volatile weather patterns with more intense drought and floods, severe hurricanes, rising sea levels devouring coastal areas, melting icecaps leading to floods and landslides are becoming increasing phenomena. It threatens not just agriculture and the ability of the world to feed itself but the survival of vast segments of the world’s population.
Concentration of carbon dioxide which was measured at 280 ppm before the onset of the industrial revolution has risen to 385 ppm today and if current rates of increase remain unchecked could exceed 550 ppm by 2050. Emissions over the last 50 years have increased significantly, coinciding with the period of rapid industrial development. As a result, global temperature measured at 14.01

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