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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