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The announcement of new UK funding to tackle marine plastic pollution, followed by the Queen's Green Planet on ITV, kicked off the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London. But what is the importance of 'CHOGM', and what role can it play in protecting our planet?

The role of the Commonwealth

Throughout the 20 century the Commonwealth became a leader on human rights, free speech and democracy. Now we face new challenges – none greater than our own devastation of our planet.

Earth’s “sixth mass extinction” event is happening now. Global wildlife numbers are heading towards a 67 per cent decline in just 50 years. If this trend continues, our planet’s forest, river and ocean systems will collapse along with the clean air, water, food and stable climate that they provide. But we can turn it around.

The Commonwealth has played an important role on the environment before, adding momentum to the critical Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.

It is clear that the Commonwealth could and should face today’s biggest challenges head-on.

 

2020: a year of opportunity

We’re approaching an unmissable opportunity for world leaders to protect nature.

2020 marks a historic coming together of global moments on the environment, climate and sustainable development, and the chance to move towards a better future that we can all benefit from forever.

This is a is one-off opportunity to influence major global decisions, sending the clear message that it is no longer acceptable to continue to destroy our environment and that urgent action is needed.

We want world leaders to put nature higher on their agenda and to recognise that we can’t continue to damage our planet.

The Commonwealth is in uniquely position to do this. It includes nations with a huge diversity of wildlife and environments – from tropical rainforests in Borneo and polar ecosystems in Canada to coral reefs in Belize and grasslands in Kenya. We need to achieve development and poverty reduction that does not cost the Earth, and the countries meeting in the UK this month should commit to leading the way.

They’ve already shown leadership in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, protecting forests, sustainably managing fish stocks and the phasing out of substances depleting the ozone layer. Commonwealth countries have taken action to protect their rare wildlife, to conserve coral reefs and to manage waste better, so that less of it escapes into the environment.

This week the UK and Vanuatu, joined by other countries and organisations including WWF and Sky, took a big step forward by announcing the new Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance to tackle plastic in our oceans. We need more collective actions like this to make the step change towards restoring our natural world.

If Commonwealth countries get organised this month, they could have a major impact in 2020, and beyond.

Nature matters to us all. It's the world we live in; our home. Saving the planet is within reach, if world leaders urgently step up global efforts to restore nature and safeguard our future.