Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on Friday opened the Commonwealth summit on the Mediterranean island of Malta — a meeting that is to focus on climate change and the threat of extremist violence.
The 89-year-old queen talked of the accomplishments of the 53-nation Commonwealth and her happy associations with Malta.
“Prince Philip and I first came to live here in Malta in 1949, the year the Commonwealth was founded,” she said, hailing a vast advancement in freedom and human rights in the decades since then. “I have been privileged to witness this transformation and to consider its purpose.”
The Commonwealth links more than 2 billion people on five continents, including large countries like India, Australia and Canada and small island states like Tonga and Vanuatu.
French President Francois Hollande on Friday briefly left grief-stricken France to travel to Malta to urge Commonwealth leaders to take action on climate change during the UN climate conference that begins in Paris tomorrow and is to be attended by about 150 world leaders.
He said that man is his own worst enemy, when it comes to both terrorism and the environment.
“We are mobilizing ourselves in favor of the environment for the planet,” he said, while expressing his fear that a deal might be blocked by a small group of countries.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the summit that the climate-change conference would show a political commitment to creating a better environment for the planet Earth and its people.
“It may be premature to judge what will happen, all the stars seem to be aligning in one direction. There is a strong commitment not only from government but civil society too,” he said.
The queen was accompanied to Malta by her husband, Prince Philip, her son Prince Charles — the heir to the British throne — and Charles’ wife, Camilla.
The queen has long ties to Malta. Between 1949 and 1951, Prince Philip was stationed on Malta as a British Royal Navy officer and the future queen lived there as a military wife, rather than a duty-burdened heir to the throne.
The queen paid tribute to Philip, praising his “boundless energy and commitment” to the Commonwealth and to Prince Charles and Camilla.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said that both Canada and Australia have pledged substantial amounts for combating climate change, adding that financing would be made available to small states for this purpose.
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