World leaders gathered for pressing talks on climate change as the 2015 Commonwealth summit launched Friday following a colourful ceremony led by Queen Elizabeth II.
As the clock ticks to a UN climate conference in Paris starting Monday, leaders at the summit including France's Francois Hollande, Britain's David Cameron and the UN's Ban Ki-moon will try to open the door to a landmark accord for limiting greenhouse gases.
Queen Elizabeth, dressed in an aqua blue coat with pink flowers adorning her trademark hat was serenaded by a harp as she arrived to a red-carpet welcome at a huge sandstone conference centre on the seafront in the Maltese capital Valletta.
"At this meeting, the Commonwealth will be charged with demonstrating leadership, often in practical ways, on an agenda of global issues," the monarch said in her opening address on the Mediterranean island.
She spoke of the Commonwealth's potential to tackle climate change -- for example the Commonwealth Canopy initiative to protect the world's forests -- and stressed the importance of getting young people involved in the fight to slow global warming.
Born out of the British empire, the Commonwealth of Nations brings together 53 countries -- around a quarter of the world's countries and a third of its population.
The hope is that by finding common ground in Malta -- among countries that differ enormously in terms of culture, size, GDP and diplomatic muscle -- the COP21 talks in Paris can break through a logjam of highly contentious issues.
The 24th biennial summit is due to focus on the issues of extremism and migration as well as the environment.
As the leaders sat down for intense working sessions, Cameron announced funding for a Commonwealth counter-extremism unit, saying sharing expertise would help defeat the "extremist scourge".
The British PM pledged £1 million ($1.5 million, 1.4 million euros) a year over five years to establish and support the unit, which will be aimed at sharing expertise and identifying "new approaches to countering poisonous ideologies", his office said.