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PoS climate deal sealed

By Sean Douglas and Clint Chan Tack Sunday, November 29 2009

click on pic to zoom in

HISTORY was made in Port-of-Spain yesterday as Commonwealth leaders reached a groundbreaking agreement on climate change on day two of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

This was revealed at a news conference held at the International Financial Centre in Port-of-Spain by Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Denmark Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

The document is called “The Port-of-Spain Climate Change Consensus: The Commonwealth Climate Change Declaration.”

Saying CHOGM is an unprecedented opportunity just ahead of next month’s United Nations Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, the document calls for “urgent and substantial action to reduce global emissions” of carbon-dioxide. It supports a US$10 billion climate-change fund, of which ten percent is for vulnerable states.

The five leaders were all optimistic that the Port-of-Spain Consensus would help to reach a deal at the Copenhagen summit due from December 7 to 18.

Ban and Rasmussen, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy who addressed the media on Friday, were invited to Trinidad by Manning to contribute to talks on climate change which has topped the CHOGM agenda.

A smiling Manning said: “I am very pleased to say that the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting here in Port-of-Spain and after deliberating with our invited colleagues, have come to a conclusion on this matter.” Manning said the leaders always knew that the diversity of the Commonwealth’s membership provided a unique opportunity to reach a consensus that would increase the momentum for success in Copenhagen.

“We have come to a conclusion which we proudly would like to present to you as the Port-of-Spain Climate Change Consensus: The Commonwealth Climate Change Declaration,” Manning added.

He asked Rudd to provide details, assuring that Trinidad and Tobago would be the 90th country at Copenhagen.

Rudd said the Port-of-Spain Consensus was a breakthrough. He said it was a “significant and substantial” document by which the Commonwealth leaders had thrown their full weight behind Rasmussen who had faced an impasse in his efforts as host ahead of Copenhagen.

He said the document supports a US$10 billion Copenhagen Launch Fund in 2010, as urged by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Rudd said paragraph 13 of the document urges the fast disbursement of funds to help vulnerable small island states and low-lying coastal states mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate-change.

Rudd said he, Ban and Rasmussen earlier yesterday met the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to discuss the real challenges facing these most vulnerable states. Rudd wanted Copenhagen to result in a “comprehensive, substantial, operationally-binding agreement”, which would then lead to a “full, legally-binding document, during the course of 2010.”

Rudd later said the document allocates ten percent of the climate fund to help vulnerable states.

Saying progress is being made daily, Rudd said 86 Heads of State will attend Copenhagen, to which Rasmussen interjected, “right now it’s 89”, only for Manning to minutes later pledge Trinidad and Tobago’s support to make the tally 90 countries.

Rudd later called for carbon targets, including a cap on emissions plus trade in carbon credits, noting his own country’s parliament is debating a Carbon Trading Bill.

Rasmussen said he was very impressed by the outcome of CHOGM, where over 50 leaders have committed themselves to Copenhagen. “I am very encouraged. I will leave Trinidad fully convinced that it will be possible to reach an agreement in Copenhagen in just a few weeks.”

Ban “highly commended” the declaration and Manning’s leadership in achieving it. The UN Secretary-General added that it was clear that “the momentum for success in Copenhagen has been growing.”

While the scientific and financial leadership for climate change are falling into place, Ban declared: “We need the political leadership at this time...We are united in purpose. We are not yet united in action. Now is the time for world leaders to show that they are committed and united in action.”

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