To the Leaders of the Commonwealth:

By Morgan Pettersson.

‘Act together now to avoid the worst climate impacts‘ was the message cried to the leaders of the commonwealth to urge them to act to stop the devastating effects of climate change.

The placards being held up during the stunt

The message was read to commonwealth leaders during The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), was held in Perth, Australia from the 28th- 30th of October.

The main issues on the agenda inside the CHOGM conference room and out were climate change and food security with many peaceful protests and actions organised during the three-day event.

The climate crisis is an especially prevalent issue in the commonwealth currently, with many member nations already feeling the effects of climate change due to food shortages, rising sea levels and increased poverty.

Amongst the groups campaigning during the CHOGM weekend the main calls for action were to eradicate polio, poverty, climate change as well as the Occupy Perth protesters occupying parts of the Perth city centre supporting various causes.

As part of the climate change campaign over 200 people gathered in the Perth Cultural Centre as part of a mass theatrical letter reading on the 29th of October, where placards were also held up further imploring leaders to act together now to fight climate change.

The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) and Oxfam Australia organised the theatrical reading of an open letter to world leaders during the CHOGM weekend, as a way of highlighting the plight of many commonwealth nations.

AYCC WA Coordinator and CCWA Young Environmentalist of the Year, Basha Stasak said on the day that she hopes the action will compel leaders of the commonwealth to act together on climate change.

“The action hopes to highlight the climate crisis faced by many commonwealth nations and calls on Commonwealth Heads stand strong and united to act on climate change” she says.

Georgia Bain, an event participant, who actively was involved in the AYCC theatrical letter reading, said that the stunt was a fun and positive way to get a serious message to the Commonwealth leaders.

“The stunt provided a great opportunity to express the serious issue of climate change to the commonwealth leaders” she says.

The Commonwealth’s member states include some of the most vulnerable communities to climate change, including those in small island developing states, low-lying coastal states, least developed countries  and other African member states.

Oxfam’s WA campaigns coordinator Paddy Cullen believes that leaders need to stand together in solidarity to find a solution to the climate crisis, in particular in regards to the poverty that is becoming more prevalent thanks to climate change.

“Climate change is a central poverty issue of our time. Around the world, vulnerable communities are facing greater droughts, floods, hunger and disease, despite being least responsible for causing climate change. Commonwealth member states include some of the most vulnerable communities to climate change including small island countries, low-lying coastal states and least developed countries.”

The CHOGM 2011 Logo

“We stand in solidarity with all Commonwealth nations who are already dealing with the impacts of human-induced climate change. We urge Commonwealth leaders to build momentum for progress at the December UN climate change negotiations in Durban, South Africa” says Mr. Cullen.

While the stunt was hailed as a huge success it was is still not clear how committed the commonwealth is to the climate crisis, as they publicly made sure that the change in rule to a female heir becoming Queen in Britain was well publicised, with other outcomes of the meeting receiving less attention or being swept under the carpet.

The annual CHOGM meeting created a security hype in Australia, with many protests being shut down by police and police given extra powers during the event.

In particular Perth police were anxious to avoid a repeat the angry scenes in Melbourne after forcing the removal of the Occupy Melbourne protestors where they were branded as having been heavy-handed.

The meeting was also the last time Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth will be visiting Australian shores during her reign, and she hosted an informal barbecue on the Perth foreshore as a way of saying goodbye to the Australian people.

The climate change issue will certainly be in the spot light this month as the COP17 United Nations Convention on Climate Change summit commences in Durban, South Africa on the 29th November, with a new binding agreement on lowering emissions needing to be signed.

Many nations are finally beginning to put carbon emission cutting a the top of their priority, as the Californian government had announced its ETS scheme and Australia passing the Carbon Tax through the senate tomorrow.

It will remain to be seen how the Durban summit transpires, with many developing and island nations desperately needing an agreement to solving the climate crisis, as they are the nations already feeling the pain.

The open letter to world leaders as read at the AYCC and Oxfam stunt for CHOGM:

To the Leaders of the Commonwealth nations,

United, you represent the voices of two billion people. People spanning six continents, from many faiths and ethnicities. More than half of those you represent are under 25.

You have been elected to represent our voices, and we say: Act together now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Tarateiti Uriam Timiti is one of the voices you represent. She is a 20-year-old woman from the island of Kiribati in the Pacific. In Kiribati, life is all about the sea; people depend on the sea for their food, livelihood and medicine. As a child, Tarateiti was in awe of the vibrant plants and corals in her ocean playground. But as she has grown, the sea has taken on a new meaning.

Buildings Tarateiti used to walk past on her way to primary school have disappeared into the sea. Now, houses are being built on stilts. The wells that provide Tarateiti’s village with fresh water are now salty. The once green and vital gardens are now brown and dry, unable to survive on salty water. Food and water are disappearing because of the rising sea.The ocean that once supported life on the island, is now threatening to destroy it. A time will come when there is nothing but deep blue ocean in place of Kiribati.

You represent John Sahid, from Freetown, Sierra Leone, who has watched households relying upon rainfall-dependent agriculture, struggle to adapt to changing weather patterns.

 You represent Jessie Short, a marine biologist, who has seen the corals of the Ningaloo Reef, where she regularly dives, become damaged and bleached from increasing ocean temperatures and acidity.

Climate change impacts have already begun to threaten our nations. We value our families, our communities and our cultures, so we value a safe climate future; and for the half of us under 25, we will be living in the world that your actions create for us today.

In the Commonwealth, some of our countries are among the world’s largest per person polluters. Many of our countries are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Leaders of the Commonwealth, we ask you to work together. We ask those with greater historical responsibility and capacity to act urgently. We ask you to support poorer Commonwealth nations –many of which are on the frontline of climate change.

We ask you to act together now to avoid the worst climate impacts.

More information about the AYCC can be found at or by reading previous articles where they are mentioned

2 Responses to “To the Leaders of the Commonwealth:”
  1. We were amazing, had such a great turnout, too bad about channel 10 being more concerned about the Queen’s reaction to the “Public Barbecue” showing that four times rather than Climate Change.

    Thanks to all that turned out! We were amazed at the level of participation everyone had and made it the wonderful success it was.

    On another note;

    CHOGM was a major waste of time and money for a Monarchy long outdated. Millions of dollars spent on moving half the Victorian police force from one side of the country to another in order to protect the “International Delegations” from peaceful protests such as the Occupy Perth protests, which were denied their legally approved route for their demonstration.

    I’m no Republican or Monarchist, but I can see when money is wasted on a meeting which came out with no results. Oh wow the Queen / King can marry Catholic’s now we totally needed an International meeting, wasting millions of dollars worldwide and contributing to climate emissions in order to decide that.


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