On Commonwealth Day, I am reminded once again that the essence of the Commonwealth is its remarkable diversity – a family of some 2.4 billion people from fifty-four nations across six continents – whose traditions, knowledge and talents offer an incomparable richness of ideas and perspectives on the world we share.
When we gathered here, in Westminster Abbey, on Commonwealth Day last year, such a challenge was unfolding at a scale that few could have imagined. Twelve months on, the Coronavirus pandemic has affected every country of the Commonwealth, cruelly robbing countless people of their lives and livelihoods, disrupting our societies and denying us the human connections which we so dearly cherish. Amidst such heart-breaking suffering, however, the extraordinary determination, courage and creativity with which people have responded has been an inspiration to us all.
This pandemic has shown us the true nature of a global emergency. We have learned that human health, economic health and planetary health are fundamentally interconnected and that pandemics, climate change and biodiversity loss are existential threats which know no borders.
Nature, it seems to me, is at the heart of this. She is central to all aspects of our existence, from the air we breathe, our nourishment and shelter to our spiritual, cultural and recreational wellbeing. Universal principles rooted in the harmony of Nature’s patterns, cycles and geometry can, in fact, be harnessed to inform sustainably-aligned science technology, design and engineering. Encouragingly, it is increasingly our young people, who make up sixty per cent of the Commonwealth’s citizens, who instinctively understand how critical it is to protect and restore the Natural world.
The Commonwealth is on the front line of this endeavour. Over the years, having visited almost every part of the Commonwealth, I have seen for myself so many of the remarkable landscapes and marine environments, and the precious biodiversity they hold.
I have also seen how the remarkable ingenuity and talent across the Commonwealth can provide so many of the solutions. Be it renewable energy in India, regenerative agriculture in South Africa, green hydrogen in Australia, sustainable shipping in Barbados, reforestation in Rwanda, the marine economy in Fiji, or Nature-based solutions in Canada, the Commonwealth is at the forefront of global innovation and action. For my part, I am determined to do what I can to support this vital effort, which is why I recently launched my Terra Carta to serve as the basis of a recovery plan for Nature, People & Planet.
The Commonwealth has been a cornerstone of my life for as long as I can remember; it is my dearest wish that it might also be the cornerstone of a sustainable future for us all. As we recover from everything that we have endured, and continue to endure, through this pandemic, we have an unprecedented opportunity to change course.
By harnessing the extraordinary potential of our Commonwealth family we are uniquely placed to lead the way. Let us be the boldest of the bold, and let us offer an example to the World.