COP26 logo, Commonwealth Secretary-General in Dominica, Turks & Caicos Navy photo, NASA map.(clockwise l-r): COP26 logo, Commonwealth Secretary-General in Dominica, Turks & Caicos Navy photo, NASA map.

Here’s an introduction to the special climate change edition of The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs. These are the abstracts  outlining the articles in this edition.

Ian Douglas (Emeritus Professor at the University of Manchester)
Many millions of the most-deprived people of the Commonwealth live in highly vulnerable locations: the tropical countries affected by cyclones (hurricanes or typhoons). Tropical cyclone intensities have been increasing since the mid-1990s. Their tracks may be shifting poleward. The associated storm surges are growing in height and severity. From the Caribbean to eastern Africa, the islands of the Indian Ocean, South Asia, Australia and the Pacific communities face, increasing flooding, housing and workplace damage and loss of livelihoods. Among the most vulnerable are those living in low-lying coastal communities on coral islands, the deltas of great rivers, and coastal sand barriers. These communities are often dependent on small-scale fisheries and are at great risk.  This vulnerability has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has struck urban areas already suffering from outbreaks of infectious diseases such as dengue, cholera, and diarrhoea.  When storm damage affects the public health infrastructure the ability to cope with these multiple hazards is likely to be overstretched. Investment in disaster preparation and relief for these worsening vulnerability situations. Action has to be taken at all levels, from the household and local community to municipal, regional and national governments. This article argues that International support is critical and governments should be increasing international aid.


Jane Wilkinson (International Climate Change Specialist)
Glaring inequality is a feature of the Commonwealth’s diversity. Most countries of the Commonwealth are developing countries in regions with high exposure to climate change impacts. Its 25 small island developing states and 14 least developed countries face disproportionately high exposure to adverse consequences and face water scarcity brought on by droughts and melting glaciers, floods, destructive tropical storms, storm surges and rising sea levels. The global COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted countries have systemic and interconnected exposure to exogenous threats like climate change. Examining the relationships between income, poverty and carbon inequality within the Commonwealth may offer insights on how stronger cooperation based on the principle of ‘equality in partnership’ could be implemented to mobilise more resources and action to tackle climate change.


Janine Pierce (University of South Australia)
The impact of climate change explored here is the destruction caused by the 2019-20 bushfires in Australia.  Australia has for many countries been experiencing accelerating changes in weather patterns, with negative impacts such as floods, bushfires, and droughts.  Fires in 2019-2020 have negatively impacted on the ecosystem, with destruction of forests, living creatures and forests, with much associated human negative impact. This article offers an overview of climate change trends and impacts, with reference to Australia, and considers human and other ecosystem impacts relating to bushfire propensity such as warming temperatures and drought.  Among the issues examined are economic loss, mental and physical health implications, and impact on indigenous peoples (as well as the lack of consultation in relation to such impact).  Extreme weather occurrences as happened in these bushfires will, it is argued, present an ongoing threat to species survival.  The article concludes that strategies at all levels of government and individual strategies should be pursued more vigorously than at present, to provide some amelioration and preparation against the severity of future bushfires.


Dinesh Kaippilly et al (Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean studies)
Climate change is a global reality and all food production sectors are badly affected by this phenomenon. Aquaculture, the fastest growing food production sector is not an exception. Thousands of Indian aqua-farmers are facing problems pertaining to production and profit in the sector. The current paper discusses the issues of climate change on the aquaculture sector in Kerala which is a small State in India. The efforts undertaken by the Government towards the mitigating the problems and the way forward are also detailed.


Harini Nagendra et al (Professor of Sustainability at Azim Premji University)
Planning discourses deeply influence urban responses to climate change, particularly within contexts of the global south.  This article examines urban climate action plans developed by thirteen Indian cities to understand the different scenarios that shape policies and visions of urban governance, using discourse analysis.  We find that urban climate action agenda in India need greater definitional clarity. Most plans require better contextual engagement with specific vulnerabilities of each city.  City plans need to be better networked to state and national planning mechanisms, recognising that climate change requires multi-level governance responses.  Finally, most plans consider Nature Based Solutions only in the form of tree planting and water body management, lacking sufficient consideration of urban ecosystem function and process, and ecosystem-based restoration. These aspects need incorporation to help Indian cities become more effective at addressing urban climate challenges.


Carl Wright (Secretary-General Emeritus, Commonwealth Local Government Forum, CLGF)
Carbon emissions which underlie much of climate change issues are mostly generated in cities and urban areas, where populations, industry and commerce are concentrated. At the 2015 Paris Climate Conference a gathering of mayors and local leaders from across the world, including the Commonwealth local Government Forum pledged local action to address climate change. The article examines the significant actions taken by cities and local government in the Commonwealth and more widely, including internationally, in seeking to implement the Paris climate targets and achieve net zero emissions, for example in declaring local ‘climate emergencies’. It makes the case that post-Covid recovery needs to be based on the ‘New Green Deal’ strategy, with particular focus on addressing climate change and loss of biodiversity if the UN sustainable development goals are to be met. It concludes by looking at prospects for COP26 in Glasgow and how the Commonwealth can support progress there.

Climate Change – Challenges, Issues and Commonwealth Responses – Taylor & Francis Online. These articles are free to access.

Also available:

COP26: The political conundrum – Mark Robinson