Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Message from Melbourne to Copenhagen

Message from members of the religions of the world gathered at the Parliament of the World’s Religions

We, from the major faith communities of the world, meeting at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, Australia, from 3rd to 9th December 2009, send warm greetings to all who are gathering at Copenhagen for your crucially important Conference. We wish to assure you that prayers are being lifted up around the world for this meeting as we recognize that climate change is the single most important issue presently confronting us and the entire Earth community.

Climate change and other critical environmental crises are intricately linked with the financial crisis. We call on all nations of the world, particularly the rich, to recognize humanity’s dependency on the natural environment and therefore on the health and well-being of the planet and seek solutions with the utmost urgency for the global environmental and economic systems.

We therefore call for a meaningful agreement that places the well-being of people and planet before profit.

We believe a dramatic reduction of carbon emissions is possible using the natural energy of the planet, which comes from renewable resources such as the sun, wind, waves, biogas. Therefore we call for a commitment to an immediate turning from reliance on fossil fuel energy and a planned and phased decline in its use in order to bring CO2 emissions down to 350 ppm.

We believe there is a moral imperative for rich countries to reduce carbon emissions and share wealth and skills with developing countries to adapt to climate change and build their economies sustainably

Climate justice is essential for a sustainable future. Either we follow the moral principles of justice, upheld by all faith communities, and share equitably the resources of the world, or we continue to consume excessively, resulting in ever more conflict and environmental destruction.

We, religious leaders of the world, therefore call on the governments of the world to implement the following resolution:


  • As people of faith, we believe we have a responsibility to the source of life and to future generations to care for this planet – our home. We therefore call on the governments of the world when they meet at the UNFCCC at Copenhagen to take urgent and meaningful action to stem climate change.

  • Following the latest scientific evidence we believe we cannot allow temperatures to rise by 2 degrees. We therefore call for a reduction of CO2 emissions to a target of 350 ppm, ensuring that emissions will have peaked by 2015 in all countries, to then decline to at least 85% below 1990 levels by 2050.

We pray wisdom and courage to do what is right.

Issued by Bishop Geoff Davies on behalf of all who endorsed it at the Parliament of the World’s Religions meeting in Melbourne, 3 – 9 December 2009

Contact: geoff.davies@safcei.org.za (Mobile:++27 83 754 5275)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Candlelight Vigil outside US Embassy


11 December, Friday afternoon to evening
(midway through the climate negotiations in Copenhagen)

Join the Action in Tshwane!

When: Friday 11 December from 15h00 onwards, to 22h00.

Where: Corner of Pretorius and Orient Street, as well as Schoeman and Orient Street, close to the entrance of the US Embassy.

How can you participate?

Just be there. Bring along yourself and your friends. Send e-mails to all your friends and challenge them to be there. Bring candles in jars to protect the flame. Bring your own posters or get a poster with a catchy slogan from the organizers.

You don’t have to be there from 15h00 right up to 22h00, but try to set aside two hours to join the vigil during this period. You might discuss the time-slot that you will be available with the organisers (see below).

We will be trying to send out clarifying messages to the passing public.

Parking available in Orient Street.


Janneke Weidema (cell 083 399 2028; e-mail janneke@icon.co.za)

Philemon Beghela (cell 0763050766; e-mail beghela@yahoo.fr)

Annalet van Schalkwyk (cell 082 321 7131; e-mail vschaa@unisa.ac.za)

Please call us if you have any queries.

Some of the participating organizations:

Avaaz (see avaaz@avaaz.org); South African Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute (SAFCEI) and Tshwane Peace Group.

You are welcome to come as a representative of your specific organisation or simply as an individual who desires to make a change!

Call for action:

Dear friends

With the biggest climate summit in history happening right now in Copenhagen, major world leaders are backing away from their promises for a deal to stop catastrophic climate change. The USA is unfortunately proving to be the most obstructionist of all the wealthy nations. Obama will be attending for one day – the 9th of December – when he’ll no doubt deliver a rousing and eloquent speech. He’ll then go to Norway the next day to collect his Nobel Peace Prize.

Currently, the US emissions target of 3 percent in the lowering of CO2 is very far away from the 40% scientists are saying is necessary. The USA now holds the most important key to unlock the climate treaty process, and we need Obama and the US Congress to turn that key.

(According to climate scientist James Hansen of NASA and others, the acceptable level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million and a CO2 reduction of 40% by the year 2020 is necessary to preserve a planet “similar to that on which human civilization developed”.)

The problem is that Europe, Canada and the US send dozens of negotiators to these summits – while most poorer countries and small island states cannot afford to send more than two or three delegates. The result is that the global South is not able to wield a strong enough bargaining power at the Summit.

We need the voices of the global South to be heard. We need the voices of African states to be heard. And we need a strong, focused voice from the South African government, as they participate in the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

We need a fair Climate Summit Deal to ensure a sustainable future for Africa.

If not only the rich countries, but also the global South, fail, it won’t only mean less snow on ski slopes. Much of the Netherlands and Belgium and coastal resorts in Florida, USA, as well as Long Island, Manhattan, could be under water while Durban’s Marine Parade might disappear.

Millions of families in Africa will see their farms turn to dust as the desert advances, many in Asia will die in worsening floods and storms, and entire nations on small islands will be threatened by rising seas – all within 10-15 years.

In South Africa and throughout the world, candlelight vigils are planned for
Friday 11 December to bring the danger to the attention of, specifically, the powerful, but also the less powerful participants in the Summit.

The timing here is crucial – the vigils are part of a huge mobilization on the weekend of December 11th - 13th: midway through the negotiations. The climate talks will build to a head a few days later: so the more the negotiators feel the pressure from citizens around the world demanding a genuine deal and consistent action, the more hopeful the final outcome will be.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

SAFCEI and Copenhagen

News reports reflect an alarming trend that implies the possible breakdown of the Copenhagen international Climate Change treaty negotiations in December because the rich industrialised countries are increasingly obstructing them. We also hear even more alarming scientific evidence of the dramatic increase of CO2 emissions from 2000 to 2008. This sets us on course for a devastating 6oC temperature rise unless we take strong action in the next few years to reduce emissions.

We, from the SA Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) say that it is absolutely essential that Copenhagen succeeds with a meaningful and binding agreement. From the faith perspective, we must do all in our power to ensure the survival for our children of the life of this planet, and we call on world leaders to attend and commit to meaningful action.

The USA has been avoiding for decades any commitment to reduce its emissions even though it carries the largest historical responsibility for climate damage. It has recently latched onto the Danish Prime Minister’s proposal that the Copenhagen outcome should only be a political statement. SAFCEI’s position is that such a statement will be meaningless and we cannot afford any further delay in establishing a legally binding international treaty.

Countless numbers of people, animals and plants will be destroyed by a failure to reach a meaningful agreement. It will be better to walk away from the table than agree to weak, immoral and ego-boosting trumpery.

We in South Africa argued from principles and the moral high ground in confronting the immorality of apartheid. We are now faced with global apartheid as rich nations refuse to take responsibility for the damage they are doing by altering the climate. This is severely impacting upon poor and vulnerable countries and the natural environment upon which we are dependent. We believe that South Africa is uniquely placed to give a lead at Copenhagen. Climate Change is deeply unjust and we, South Africa, must take a principled stand at Copenhagen. This could break the log jam.

SAFCEI testified at the recent Parliamentary hearings on Climate Change that we have to be led by ethical principles, not economic interests.

It is of deep concern to hear cabinet’s constant cry that since South Africa is a developing country, it must have "carbon space" so as not to jeopardise growth and development. Cabinet, we are told, wants to allow our emissions to continue to rise until 2020/2025, to then stabilize for a decade and only then decline from about 2035.

We in SAFCEI believe this is totally unacceptable.

We don't know if this is a bargaining position to leverage more money "to finance low-carbon initiatives" from the international community, but the position is too serious for games. We cannot fool the natural environment.

We have to act on ethical principles and demand the world does the same. This means that South Africa has the unique opportunity to cut its emissions voluntarily, arguably the only country in Africa that can take such a moral stand in a meaningful way because we are the 12th worst global CO2 emitter, producing more than half of Africa's emissions.

By turning to a low carbon economy, we can develop our green industry and green energy generation, and we will create thousands more jobs.

All faiths call for Justice and Equity. We are told that we should seek God's righteousness, and all else will follow. Put principles first and the economics will follow. We have been guilty of putting economics first - worshipping money and the market.

We live in a time of excessive inequity in a system of global apartheid. The rich and powerful control the wealth of the world to their benefit - to the detriment and disregard of the poor and the natural environment.

Capitalism has flourished over recent decades, but people and planet have suffered. At Copenhagen we call on the governments of the world to be guided by ethical principles rather than self-centred financial considerations. These principles must place the well-being of planet, people and future generations before profit.

The purpose of an economy is not profit but the well-being of all people and of all creation. Economic growth is therefore not an end but a means to achieve good, just and humane societies.

We believe rich countries should sign up to obligations that commit them to:

· Making deep and urgent cuts in their own carbon emissions in line with scientific findings that show that CO2 emissions must be brought down to a maximum of 350ppm.

· Assisting and helping to pay for developing countries to reduce their emissions, develop cleanly and adapt to climate change.

SAFCEI has ttherefore put forward the following resolution, endorsed by major churches and faiths of South Africa


  • As people of faith, we believe we have a responsibility to God and future generations to care for this planet - our home. We therefore call on the governments of the world when they meet at the UNFCCC at Copenhagen in December this year to take urgent and meaningful action to stem climate change.
  • Following the latest scientific evidence we believe we cannot allow temperatures to rise by 2 degrees. We therefore call for a reduction of CO2 emissions to a target of 350 ppm, ensuring that emissions will have peaked by 2015 in all countries, to then decline to at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

We believe it important for faith communities to be involved as these are moral issues requiring behavioural change.

Now is the time for our President and his cabinet to make choices. There is a small window of opportunity for South Africa to stand once again as a world leader, a nation symbolising hope and forward thinking. Radical and innovative changes are needed, in our aspirations, our behaviour and our governance.

We need to fix our eyes on the moral compass and listen to the laws of nature and the universe, revealed in our sacred texts.

Roshan Stanford
Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute
Ph: 021 7018145
Fax: 0866 969666
skype: safcei

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