The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, will be in Gabon from Wednesday 1 March to highlight the importance of protecting global biodiversity at the One Forest Summit in Libreville on Thursday.
The conference, held by the The President of Gabon, HE Ali Bongo Ondimba, and The President of France, HE President Emmanuel Macron, seeks to secure commitments on the protection of vital forest ecosystems like the Congo Basin, and see the inception of initiatives to reverse the global loss of biodiversity.
The Secretary-General will join Heads of Government, Ministers of State and global experts at the conference, where she will give a speech on Thursday 2 March 2023.
She will also meet with the President of Gabon, and other government ministers, to advance Commonwealth co-operation on the environment, and explore areas of collaboration.
She said: “The world is moving in the right direction in recognising the importance of preserving biodiversity. However, more work needs to be done to change the disastrous trajectory we are on, that, according to the UN, could result in the extinction of one million plant and animal species.
“The sustainable management of forests environments, like the Congo Basin, is essential to addressing interrelated global challenges, foremost among them climate change and biodiversity loss.
“The Commonwealth can learn many lessons from Gabon’s leadership in this area, particularly in its management of its natural areas, its climate change mitigation strategy and carbon neutral policies, and its move to diversify its economy to make it greener.
“I look forward to discussing how the Commonwealth family can learn from Gabon, and how in turn the Commonwealth can support Gabon’s aspirations through initiatives like the Climate Finance Access Hub, the Living Lands Charter and the Blue Charter.”
Gabon became the 55th member of the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda last June, joining alongside Togo.
It is now one of 56 countries representing 2.5bn people, of which over 60% are under the age of 30.
Biodiversity is particularly important for the Commonwealth as it is home to to 23% of the world’s land area, 8.8 million km²of forest land, nearly one third of all oceans and critical biodiversity ecosystems like the tropical forests of Papua New Guinea and keystone species like savanna elephants.
The Commonwealth also includes 400 endemic species – those restricted to geographical areas – which live in 25 small island developing states. Nearly a third (29%) of the world’s megadiverse countries are members of the Commonwealth, with many in tropical regions.
The Commonwealth helps member countries protect their environments and use their natural resources sustainably through programmes such as the Blue Charter, the Living Lands Charter, the Commonwealth Sustainable Energy Transition Agenda and the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, which helps countries unlock climate finance.
As of January 2023, the initiative has unlocked $67.5 million US dollars, and an additional $2.9 million US dollars in co-financing.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General will be in Gabon from Wednesday 1 March 2023 to Saturday 4 March 2023.