RSE calls for greener, fairer Commonwealth

The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy has joined 22 other Commonwealth science academies to urge their nations’ leaders to work together to address the interlinked challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and health, which have such unequal impact.

The Commonwealth is home to nearly a third of the world’s population and ranges from G7 nations to developing countries that are among the hardest hit by both Covid-19 and climate change.

The call for joint action to build a sustainable and resilient recovery from the pandemic was made in a letter from the science academies to Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland. It comes in the week that Commonwealth heads of government were due to meet in Kigali, Rwanda, but postponed this due to Covid-19.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General is due to lead delegations to both COP15 (the UN Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity ) in October and COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties) in November where Commonwealth leaders are expected to play key roles in international negotiations on environmental and climate policy.

Professor Marcel Jaspars, RSE Vice-President (International), said: “There is a clear link between climate change and biodiversity loss and both need to be considered carefully when developing mitigating measures. Any measures developed need to be fair and just so that vulnerable communities are not disproportionately disadvantaged. Working with the Commonwealth we can ensure a just response to the climate crisis and ensure we can reach net-zero together.”

Recommendations include that Commonwealth governments work together to:

  • develop roadmaps to reach net-zero carbon emissions that take into account the diverse energy needs of their nations;
  • monitor and share critical science data to help prevent future health pandemics, further loss of biodiversity and tackle the impact of climate change;
  • ensure that the environmental threat to nature and biodiversity is taken seriously when making social and economic decisions;
  • address the impact of climate change on the oceans to protect both human and marine activity and support the many Commonwealth countries threatened by rising sea levels;
  • and address the unequal impact of global health and environmental challenges on the most vulnerable Commonwealth countries.

These recommendations result from the Commonwealth Science Conference, held virtually in February this year, where over 300 scientists met to consider how scientific innovation could help address shared health and environmental challenges.

Read the letter to the Commonwealth Secretary General here.

Find out more about the recommendations on the Royal Society’s website.