The time for talking is over! This was the message on Wednesday, 21 September from South Africa’s faith leaders to the anticipated 30 000 delegates from around the world who will gather in Durban on 28 November for COP17.
“Unlike the 16 previous COPs (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), COP17 cannot be allowed to fail. As spiritual leaders of millions of South Africans and the representatives of civil society, we demand that practical and measurable programmes be put in place to reduce our carbon emissions and the impact of climate change on the world.”
Main picture: Bishop Geoff Davies is the first to sign the petition surrounded by Faith Leaders
Under the banner of “We have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice”, the faith leaders from South Africa signalled their intention to have their collective voice loudly heard by being the first to sign what they hope will be a multi-million signature petition to be presented to COP17.
Hosted by South Africa’s national environmental agency Indalo Yethu, the South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the Economic Justice Network (EJN), the three-day conference demanded that “moral, ethical and spiritual principles, and not profit or economic gain, be applied in the COP17 negotiations to secure a common future for humanity.”
Time for global change
“To this end we call upon global governments – and indeed our own government – to commit to a fair, ambitious and legally-binding agreement – and a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol. We are all accountable for the survival of human life. We are the nation of hope and we will not allow South Africa to become the burial ground of the Kyoto Protocol,” said Keith Vermeulen, spokesperson for the SACC.
While recognising the need for all countries to set carbon emission targets and implement programmes that will begin to heal planet earth, the faith leaders have called on wealthy nations to help finance the efforts of the developing world.
“Developed countries are the biggest polluters and yet the impact of floods and droughts is felt most acutely in the developing world. The historically-polluting nations have an ecological debt which needs to be paid to developing countries through additional development aid, governed inclusively and equitably by the United Nations,” he said.
A plan for Africa
To underscore their commitment to empower people to respond to climate change, the faith leaders have committed to lead the development of an African-centred Climate Charter. This Charter will espouse the rights and aspirations of our communities towards a sustainable world.
The partners will also be mounting several high-profile public participation events in the weeks leading up to COP17. These events include: a travelling caravan through seven countries to mobilise Africa’s youth, a civil society march, a multi-faith prayer service, a mass rally, expected to attract 50 000 people, on Sunday 27 November at 2pm being the eve of COP17, a “Climate Train” for increased public awareness.