Queen continues fight to save Commonwealth rainforests, says FRANK FIELD MP
The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy illustrates just how quickly Her Majesty moves when a new opportunity arises.
And never more so than when the opportunity can be linked so firmly to those great ventures to which she has committed her life.
One such venture has been the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth is one of the great organisations of the world.
For the first time ever, people who were colonised by a country (us) move to independence and yet still wish to hold themselves together in an association, called the Commonwealth of Nations.
It exists today only because of the commitment the Queen has given to it over her long and often fast-moving reign.
It is also bound together by speaking a common language and adopting a common form of law.
It cannot, by itself, fill any trade gap that might follow us leaving the European Union but here is a world-wide market with which we do trade, speaking the same language and, for most of the time, sharing the same system of law and parliamentary institutions.
Over and above all the individual events which Commonwealth countries have held and are holding to celebrate Her Majesty’s long reign and commitment to serve them, how might it collectively honour the Queen? Here, a number of providential blessings occurred.
Ten years ago I formed with Swedish businessman Johan Eliasch a small charity, which Johan called Cool Earth.
A second piece of providential blessing was the appointment of Matthew Owen as this embryonic organisation’s director.
A third example of providential blessing was for Cool Earth to hit on a strategy of buying thin firewalls of forest and then giving these strips of land to local communities.
This has prevented loggers making inroads into the forest beyond the firewalls and tearing out its heart.
More forest is protected behind these Cool Earth fi rewalls than by any other nongovernmental organisation’s programme.
Local tribes are given the resources so they can raise their own standard of living, education and health standards, on the proviso that they tell other friends in the rainforest about Cool Earth’s offer.
Following our early success, a further example of providential blessing was a conversation I had with our director Matthew.
I was desperate to help the Commonwealth face the future and had no luck whatsoever with the Blair, Brown or Cameron governments.
I knew few Commonwealth countries had huge amounts of rainforest but I asked Matthew where the Commonwealth, as a collective identity, would rank if all its rainforest were linked together.
He said second in the world. Providential blessing gave me the opportunity of putting a proposal along these lines to the Palace.
The idea was put to the Queen that we would try to link these rainforests together throughout the world, to be called the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, and to be a lasting tribute to her work in those countries.
The Queen not only jumped at the proposal but has been a main driver behind its success, which will be recognised at the next Commonwealth summit in the spring.
The early success of the Canopy has been stunning. Twenty-eight Commonwealth countries have so far linked together under its protection.
The biggest single area of land being protected lies within the Great Bear rainforest on the Pacifi c coast of British Columbia in Canada.
At 6.4 million hectares, it is three times the size of Wales. The growth of the Canopy idea will be revealed in a fllm next year which features the Queen and Sir David Attenborough – both 91-year-olds.
The Sunday Express will bring news about this unique production as the story develops.
Most crucially, the Queen’s action has opened a new chapter in Commonwealth history.
Here was a project that countries could opt into and shape. It was not yet another top-down project but a bottom-up movement that will leave a lasting legacy.