Rich Commonwealth nations such as the UK have been accused of shirking their responsibility on climate change while poorer countries pick up the slack.
Countries including the UK, Australia and Canada have not made sufficient pledges to cut emissions based on their ability to act and responsibility for the problem, a report by Christian Aid suggests.
But poorer countries such as Bangladesh, Kenya and Zambia are doing more than their fair share to cut greenhouse gases, the study, published as Commonwealth leaders meet in London, finds.
The report assessed the pledges made by each Commonwealth country under the global climate deal, the Paris Agreement, to cut greenhouse gases and measured it against their national capacity to take action and historic emissions since 1990, to calculate their “fair” share of tackling the problem.
In many cases the fair level of action by richer countries outstrips what they can do domestically, so the study argues they should support poor nations to deliver emissions cuts.
One way to do this would be to invest in programmes to boost renewable energy and clean cooking technology, which would also help millions of people access electricity without causing more pollution.
The UK, which creates more carbon emissions per person than 18 Commonwealth countries, could do its bit on climate change while meeting the energy needs of some of the world’s poorest people, Christian Aid said.
Report author and Christian Aid’s international climate lead Mohamed Adow said: “The UK claims to stand in solidarity with its Commonwealth allies, but when it comes to one of the gravest threats to member nations, it is shirking its responsibilities.
“The UK is proud of the shared values between the ‘family of nations’ but it is not pulling its weight and instead is leaving the heavy lifting to much poorer countries.”
But he said: “Britain has a long history of industrial innovation and helping bring light and power to the remotest parts of the world would be an achievement worthy of a nation which claims to be a climate leader.”