Queen sends environment message to Commonwealth

Posted: 11 March 2008

Queen Elizabeth II, who is Head of the Commonwealth, has highlighted the defence of the environment in her Commonwealth Day message, which can "have a real and positive effect on the lives of others."

Queen in Kampala CHOGM
Queen in Kampala CHOGM
Queen Elizabeth II with Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon during the opening ceremony of the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala, Uganda in November 2007. Photo credit: Rebecca Nduku / © Commonwealth Secretariat
Recalling the latest Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda last November, the Queen mentioned the River Nile as an example illustrating many of the challenges facing the "global environment as a whole", which, she said, "cannot alone sustain our lives as once it did."

The Nile, which is the longest river in the world stretching for 4,187 miles, is the main source of water for the nine nations which make up the Nile basin. For all its impressive size, the water provided by the river is barely enough to satisfy the estimated 123 million people who depend on its waters for survival.

"The competition for fresh water by a growing population is itself becoming a source of potential conflict," the Queen warned. "Our own attitudes to the environment, and the use we put it to, may have consequences for people on every continent and for every ocean and sea."

The Queen also said in her message that "the impact of pollution falls unequally: it is often those who pollute the least - notably in the world's least-developed nations - who are closest to the razor's edge: most affected by the impact of climate change and least equipped to cope with it."

The environmental choices available in some countries may not be an option for others.

"In some parts of the world, for example, fossil fuels can be used more sparingly and buildings can be made of more efficient, sustainable materials; but it is far harder to expect someone to adapt if he or she relies on the trees of a local forest for fuel, shelter and livelihood. If we recognise the interests and needs of the people who are most affected, we can work with them to bring about lasting change," the Queen observed.

Her Majesty urged more support for young people, whom she described as both energetic and able to confront climate change. She added that governments, businesses, communities and individuals should each strive to "match words and good intentions with deeds."

"Whatever we do, wherever we live," said the Queen, "our actions in defence of the environment can have a real and positive effect upon the lives of others, today and into the future."