Durban, South Africa — Nobel Peace laureate and South Africa’s favorite cleric, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called for COP17-CMP7 action at the “We Have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice” concert and rally he hosted at the King’s Park Stadium in Durban yesterday.
“Apartheid seemed an overwhelming challenge that could not be defeated but we mobilized and defeated it. We need the same passion and determination to defeat climate change,” said Tutu.
He called for people and planet before profit and a moral vision.
Tutu described climate change as the greatest threat ever to humanity and spoke out against the deadlock where certain countries say they will only commit to reductions if others do. “The US won’t unless China does,” for example.
“We look for a miracle during COP17 to break the logjam,” he said. “We call for climate justice now.”
Welcoming the world to South Africa, Tutu with his customary humor and charm said countries had united and helped South Africa in the struggle against apartheid. “We defeated it. We now face another huge enemy. No one country can fight this particular enemy alone. We learn that certain countries say ‘we are not going to reduce our emissions by a certain date.’
“We want to tell them, we have only one home. We destroy this home and we have had it.”
The crowd at the concert and rally wasn’t the hoped-for 40,000. But the multi-denominational faith leaders were there en masse to give support. Several, including Catholic Cardinal Wilfrid Napier and Rabbi Warren Goldstein, took to the stage to call for action and climate justice.
And the audience was entertained by a host of performers including Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the Durban Gospel Choir, Arno Carstens and Gcina Mhlophe.
Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Climate Change Convention, was visibly moved when, after dancing on stage with Tutu and accepting a petition calling for climate justice — plus other items she was asked to take to the COP17 negotiations — she addressed the audience and called for patience, indicating that expectations for major COP17 action should not be too high.
The petition handed to her calls for world leaders to commit to a legally binding commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, to set clear, long-term targets for carbon emission reductions, and to ensure there is adequate finance for adaptation in Africa.
South African Climate Change Response Expo
Meanwhile in Durban yesterday the South African Climate Change Response Expo launched for COP17 with an opening ceremony attended by South Africa’s deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe.
Speaking about the Expo, South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, said: “The South African Climate Change Response Expo provides an unprecedented opportunity for all those with a passion for moving South Africa towards a green economy to showcase their innovations, ideas, products and services, and to signal government’s commitment to encouraging a green economy growth path.
“It’s main objective will be to create a unique and highly memorable visitor experience that encourages a personal connection with the important issues around climate change, and to excite and inspire South Africans to make climate-friendly choices in their day-to-day lives. By working together in this way to become more environmentally responsible, we really can make a difference to our lives, our country and the planet.”
The South African Climate Change Response Expo is open to the public for the duration of COP17 and entrance is free.