By Stephen Leahy
DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 9 (IPS) - African and international faith leaders urged governments attending the final day of climate change negotiations to do what is right and necessary to keep global temperature from rising no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“The two degrees Celsius target is unacceptable because temperatures in much of Africa will be far higher,” said South African Bishop Geoff Davies.
Oil and coal companies along with other major polluting corporations are engaged in “crimes against humanity and the planet” because they continue to pollute the atmosphere when they have ability to do otherwise, said David Le Page of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI).
More than 130 African faith leaders have signed a declaration offering specific recommendations based science, honesty, morality and equity. They called on delegates negotiating a new climate treaty here at the 17th Conference of Parties to live up to the African spirit of “ubuntu” – a way of living focused on people’s allegiances and relations with each other.
The current economic system encourages “people to get as rich as they can and forget about anyone else,” said Davies. “It’s an immoral system.”
“Historic polluters like the United States have to reduce their emissions dramatically” and their position here is “shocking” and “reprehensible”, he said. The children and grandchildren of U.S. congressmen will ask what they were doing to be so selfish and irresponsible, Davies said.
The U.S is the most religious society in the world but their behaviour is “sinful” in their refusal to reduce emissions that causing so much suffering among people, he said.
“When lifestyles of the wealthy hurt the lives of the poor….and future generations it is wrong,” Mardi Tindal, Moderator of the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination.
“Climate change is a moral, ethical and spiritual issue. We need moral leadership not political leadership,” Tindal told IPS.
“South Africa has had courageous, moral leaders like Ghandi and Mandela. If our leadership shows the same moral courage the people will follow them.”
However, political leaders will have to lead by their deeds and personal examples, not words if they hope to bring people with them, she said.
Davies expressed deep disappointment regarding yesterday’s announcement that South Africa government will invest three billion rand to upgrade the Richards Bay Terminal export 81 million tonnes of coal annually by 2016.
Other countries here are expanding their oil production around the world and that is why climate talks will not bring the agreement we need, he said.
“You cannot underestimate the power and influence of the fossil fuel industry. We know they spend millions of dollars lobbying their governments. They are holding the world to ransom and causing the destruction of the environment.”
The good news is that the economically powerful countries like the U.S., Europe, Brazil, India and China could begin to turn this around in a matter of months with major programmes in renewables and energy efficiency. Money should flow to Africa, who is least responsible for climate change, to help them create low-carbon societies Davies said.
If this doesn’t happen “we all will suffer the consequences.” (END)