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Commonwealth leaders have officially adopted the Living Lands Charter, which commits all 54 member countries to safeguarding global land resources while taking coordinated action on climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable land management.

The non-binding agreement was announced today at the conclusion of the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, along with the final communiqué. It is the culmination of nearly two years of intense consultation, engagement and negotiation with member countries, United Nations Rio Conventions, and other relevant stakeholders.

Applauding the initiative, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, said:

“The Living Lands Charter: A Commonwealth Call to Action on Living Lands (CALL) is a testament to our commitment to the people of the Commonwealth, and to the Commonwealth principles of transparency, consensus, and common action.

“It helps to encapsulate our combined effort to hold the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C. It seeks to catalyse the global political momentum for enhancing climate action, building resilience, reducing biodiversity loss, and arresting land degradation.

“Our Call to Action on Living Lands seeks to propel sustainable land management by supporting the 54 Commonwealth member countries to prevent biodiversity loss and desertification while reducing emissions, enhancing resilience and promoting sustainable development.”

The Living Lands Charter recognises that the vulnerabilities of our ecosystems to land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are closely interrelated and need to be considered collectively.

It seeks to strengthen synergies and coordinated action at national, regional and global levels, of relevant actions under the three Rio Conventions — namely, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD); the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Secretariats for the three Rio Conventions have expressed their full support for the Charter.

Heads recognised the need of taking a principled approach to the Living Lands Charter and active cooperation with a range of partners to share knowledge, expertise, success stories, and good practices in sustainable land management, while incentivising investment flows and technological innovation.

They also underlined the critical guardianship provided by Indigenous peoples and local communities in protecting land and vital ecosystem services, and recognised the land and resource rights of these communities, in accordance with national law and international instruments.

All countries agreed to voluntarily dedicate a ‘Living Land’ in their respective country to the future generations, in line with the Strategy set for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

An implementation plan for the Charter will be developed and presented to members.

Climate change decisions

The Living Lands Charter was released alongside a final wide-ranging communiqué by leaders, including on specific items on climate change.

In the communiqué, heads underscored that the “urgent threat of climate change” exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and presents a significant threat to COVID-19 recovery efforts. Developing countries, least developed countries and small island developing states were particularly at risk of their development gains being reversed.

Heads renewed their commitment under the Paris Agreement to keep the rise in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, also reflecting the Glasgow Climate Pact.

Leaders recognised that this requires “rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions”, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net-zero around mid-century, as well as deep reductions in other greenhouse gasses.

They further recognised that enhanced support for developing country parties will allow for higher ambition in their actions.

Climate finance

Leaders deeply regretted that the goal of developed country parties to jointly mobilise US$100 billion per year by 2020 had not yet been met. They called on developed countries to fully deliver on the US$100 billion goal urgently and through to 2025 and emphasised the importance of transparency in the implementation of their pledges.

They welcomed the increased pledges made to date, including through the ‘Climate Finance Delivery Plan: Meeting the US$100 Billion Goal’.

Heads recognised the role of the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub in assisting developing country members with human and institutional capacity to mobilise climate finance for enhanced climate action, including through the development of bankable projects and robust climate policies, amongst other support.

Countries looked forward to working together with the global community to ensure true progress is made on climate action on the road to the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.By Tricia Ishimwe, Tower Post 

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