Commonwealth Envoy visits Samoa

Work is underway to ensure a successful Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (C.H.O.G.M.) in June.

This week, the Queen’s man and the Commonwealth Envoy, Philip Parham, is on the ground in Samoa meeting with Government and agencies in preparation.

Mr. Parham is on a fast-paced three day stay in Samoa, with the main goal of checking in on Samoa’s progress on commitments all the member state leaders made at their 2018 meeting in London.

The biannual meeting is taking place in Kigali, Rwanda, and it is Mr. Parham’s hope that it will be an essential step on the road to the international climate change negotiations in Glasgow in November.

“This year is going to be a key year on climate, and we and others see the C.H.O.G.M. as possibly being the key stepping stone on the way to C.O.P.26,” he said.

The Conference of the Parties (C.O.P.) is the international United Nations Climate Change Conference, which is the site of negotiations and agreements between countries on how to act on halting the impacts of climate change.

After the 2015 Paris Agreement was signed, meetings have focused on how to enact that agreement, and what commitments each country should make in the context of that agreement.

Previously, negotiations have been stalled by an inability to reach consensus on key issues from large countries with large carbon emissions like the United States of America, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Parham said more united voices at the meeting may help avoid clashes like those seen at the 2019 meeting in Madrid.

“It’s a real opportunity for the Commonwealth to be seen to take a lead and give impetus to the rest of the international community by announcing new, improved nationally determined contributions to the implementations of the Paris Accord and long term plans for reaching net zero carbon economies,” he said.

Despite the challenge against the large, highly emitting countries pushing back during previous COP meetings, a united front from a large group of diverse countries “does carry a lot of weight,” Mr. Parham said.

Among various commitments made after the 2018 meeting, Samoa’s efforts are largely focused on the environment and the existential threat of climate change, Mr. Parham said, making Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Fiame Naomi Mata’afa a core partner on his trip.

The meeting resulted in the launching of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, which focused on conserving the ocean, and clamping down regulations on plastic waste. This including introducing of a ban on the sale or manufacture of microbeads in cosmetics in all Clean Oceans Alliance member countries by 2021.

It also saw a unanimous adoption of the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration, and leaders agreed to work together on strengthening cybersecurity in their countries.

Mr. Parham said another key focus of his meetings in Samoa is the development of the country’s National Human Rights Institution and work to improve legislation to best protect women, girls and other at risk minorities.

“There was a meeting here in which considered the question of how to reform that kind of legislation, much of which comes from the colonial era and at the C.H.O.G.M. in 2018, then Prime Minister Theresa May made it clear we want to address those discriminatory pieces of legislation,” he said.

“Under the Pacific Commonwealth Equalities Project, assistance has been given to Samoa and other Pacific Island countries to build up their Human Rights Institutions to enable them to be as effective as possible.”

He said he believes the United Kingdom has shown itself to be leading by example in the climate change space, highlighting an announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week that the ban on petrol and diesel car sales would be brought forward five years, to 2035.

“We were the first major economy to put into law to achieve a net zero carbon economy by 2050.

“We have reduced our emissions by 40 per cent by 1990, which is the steepest reduction of any country in the G7 (the seven largest economies of the world). We are leading by example, and we are really determined that COP26 will achieve what need to be achieved to get us back for the 1.5 degree limit on global temperature rise.”

The next C.H.O.G.M will be in 2022 and hosted in Samoa, who won the bid to host against Malaysia.

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