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When nations step up for the global commons

From climate talks to the war on Islamic State, a few nations have lately shown greater global leadership. This wider embrace of humanity deserves notice.

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    India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers a speech during the launching of the International Solar Alliance on the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, Nov. 30.
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Most nations give at least some lip service to helping maintain the global commons. The world has witnessed this in the climate-change negotiations in Paris. And in the pledges of aid for Syrian refugees by donor countries. And in a recent global conference on Internet governance. Words of support come easily. Action is often difficult.

So it is worth noting when a few big countries, which can often be stuck in narrow domestic interests, step up to take on aspects of global leadership. These recent moves reflect each country’s wider embrace of humanity and the universal principles that sustain it. 

At the Paris talks, for example, India announced it would lead a coalition of 121 nations to promote new solar energy projects as one contribution to cutting carbon emissions. The alliance will be headquartered in India, which will put up $30 million to kick-start the global venture. It also pledged to draw 40 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030.

Another example is Germany. It not only leads Europe on refugee and Russian policy but it plans to join the international coalition against Islamic State. The German military will send war jets, a frigate, and as many as 1,200 soldiers to the Middle East in what has become a global struggle against this terrorist group.

And this week, China finally achieved recognition for its impact on the global economy by having its currency, the yuan, included in a basket of other major currencies used by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF, which helps poorer countries in financial stress, relies on a few major currencies for its loans. China’s inclusion marks an important threshold for it to start upholding the international financial order created after World War II.

This list of countries taking more leadership would not be complete without mentioning Canada. A new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has announced an outsize contribution for such a small country. He promises to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees at a cost of about $678 million. Canada is also giving $100 million to the United Nations for its refugee aid. By Canada’s own past standards as a compassionate country, these steps set a higher mark of leadership. Good deeds for the global good should not go unnoticed.

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