We remember a time in Durban – indeed, a period in the history of this nation of South Africa – when we feared that the apartheid states’ intransigence would spark a conflict in which much blood would be shed. But even at our lowest ebb, even when the injustice we faced seared through every minute of every day, our people stood firm in the knowledge that justice itself would defeat a system that put different values on different people based on nothing more arbitrary than the colour of their skin.
Now, twenty years after our victory, in the remaining hours of the Durban climate talks, with great urgency we call for a similar breakthrough – one as unexpected, as deserved and as vital as South Africa’s transition to democracy.
You may not have felt it inside the rarefied air-conditioned corridors of the conference centre, but a restless anger stalks this land – an anger driven by a new apartheid that has trapped close to half of humanity in a deadly embrace of poverty, inequality and hunger. Our institutions – local, national and global, across public and private sectors – are rapidly losing legitimacy. A mistrust that is driven by the human greed of a minority has plundered the hopes and aspirations of the majority. People sense it at a visceral level, this year alone it has toppled dictators, and someday soon – perhaps not this year or the next, but someday soon – the victims of rising temperatures will similarly find their voice.
Your job is to meet their hopes before you meet their anger.
Africa’s population is scheduled to reach two billion people by 2050, while over three quarters of those human beings will be under 25 years of age and living in overcrowded urban slums. Their carbon footprint is practically zero but these communities will bear the brunt of your failure – if that is what you decide upon – here in Durban. If the agreement you make is to embrace a dead decade of climate inaction then the name of our city will be remembered as the place you condemned our continent.
Even today the resilience of our agricultural systems is stretched to breaking point. The Horn of Africa, where 13 million people are at risk of famine, is just the beginning. A major humanitarian crisis is looming in West Africa affecting Mali, Burkino Faso and Niger where the nexus of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition is chronic, systemic and damning.
And you want to hand us another degree of heat, and another one after that, and after that another?
You are heads of state, ministers and diplomats. The fact that you are here, charged with delivering a solution, makes you among the most powerful men and women who ever lived. Whether you choose to exercise that power is in your gift.
Read more: Greenpeace >>
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About the AuthorTckTckTck is the online hub for the Global Call for Climate Action. The GCCA represents an unprecedented alliance of more than 400 nonprofit organizations from around the world. Our shared mission is to mobilize civil society and galvanize public support to ensure a safe climate future for people and nature, to promote the low-carbon transition of our economies, and to accelerate the adaptation efforts in communities already affected by climate change.
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