Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was greeted with applause by his fellow leaders when he announced Canada's latest contribution towards an international climate fund seeking to raise US$100 billion annually by 2020. The announcement came ahead of next week's United-Nations sponsored climate change conference in Paris.
"Canada is back and ready to play its part in combating climate change and this includes helping the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world adapt," Trudeau said in a statement.
The contribution announced Friday was in addition to the $1.5 billion the previous Conservative government contributed to the UN fund since 2009. That means Canada has exceeded the $4 billion target that environmental groups have been touting as its "fair share," based on the country's national wealth.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau arrive at the Commonwealths Heads of Government meeting. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
The United Nations Children's Fund said the contribution helps establish Canada as a global leader in helping vulnerable children in poor countries affected by climate change.
"We know that children, particularly the poorest, are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, a fundamental threat to their most basic rights, including access to food, water, education and survival," David Morley, UNICEF Canada's president, said in a statement.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion called the climate change funding "historic."
He said the money will "support developing countries' transition to low-carbon economies and more effectively tackle climate change."
"It's not an equalization payment . . . It's not a transfer. It's for projects that will help," Dion told reporters in Malta.
French President Francois Hollande, who was invited to address the Commonwealth meeting in advance of the Paris talks, commended the announcements by Canada, as well as Australia, to top up their climate funding.
Hollande said he was invited to speak to the Commonwealth prior to the deadly terror attacks in Paris two weeks ago. He skipped the G20 summit, which took place immediately after the attacks, but said he felt it was important to attend the Commonwealth meeting to build momentum before the COP21 climate conference.
"Man is the worst enemy of man," said Hollande.
"We can say it with terrorism but we can say the same when it comes to climate. Human beings are betraying nature, damaging the environment. It is therefore up to human beings to face up to their responsibilities," he added.
"It's a duty for mankind to be able, in the days to come, to reach an agreement — a binding agreement, a universal agreement and one that is ambitious."
"It's not an equalization payment . . . It's not a transfer. It's for projects that will help."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who also took part in Friday's special session on climate, praised the Commonwealth for finding common cause on the issue, calling the 53 nations in Malta a "microcosm" of the wider United Nations.
"All the stars seem to be aligning in one direction," Ban told the Commonwealth meeting, pointing to Paris.
Dion said attitudes towards climate change have shifted since he hosted climate talks in Montreal in 2005, when he was environment minister.
"Ten years after, I feel that the countries feel the effect of climate change," he said. "In 2005 they were anticipating it. Now it's a reality."
Trudeau spent much of Friday rubbing shoulders with royalty at the Malta summit.
The prime minister took part in a lunch with Queen Elizabeth, the 89-year-old monarch who royal watchers say may be attending her last Commonwealth meeting.
The summits are only held every two years and the next two are scheduled to be far from Europe.
Trudeau to toast the Queen
In recent years, the Queen has avoided long-distance travel.
Trudeau met outside the conference with Prince Charles and the prime minister was selected to deliver the toast to the Queen at the Friday night leaders' dinner.
In a text provided to the media, Trudeau pays homage to the Queen as a constant in the development of Canada over the last half century, including opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, cutting Canada's ceremonial centennial cake on Parliament Hill in 1967 and signing off on the repatriation of the Constitution in 1982.
"On that cool day in April, seated next to you, was my father," said Trudeau, 43.
"Pierre Elliott Trudeau was your fourth Canadian prime minister. I am your twelfth."
"In 1947, you famously vowed that your whole life would be devoted to the service of the Commonwealth. You more than honoured your vow."
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