Commonwealth leaders have officially adopted the Living Lands Charter which commits all 56 member countries to safeguarding global land resources – as well as taking coordinated action on climate change, biodiversity loss, and sustainable land management.
The non-binding agreement was announced on 25 June at the conclusion of the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda.
Representatives from the event described the agreement as the culmination of nearly two years of intense consultation, engagement and negotiation with member countries, United Nations Rio Conventions, and relevant stakeholders.
Applauding the initiative, the recently re-elected Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, said: “The Living Lands Charter 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 Celsius. 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 [Editorial note: the Commonwealth now counts 56 members after the admission of Gabon and Togo] Commonwealth member countries to prevent biodiversity loss and desertification while reducing emissions, enhancing resilience and promoting sustainable development.”
The Living Lands Charter recognises the vulnerabilities of ecosystems owing to land degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change. The agreement hence 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 of governments 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.
The Living Lands Charter was released alongside other actions plans to mitigate the effects of climate change and enhance the use of technology to improve livelihoods.
Amongst other initiatives, leaders 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.