An Open Letter from Durban
At five a.m. on Sunday morning, delegates from the world’s 194 countries gathered in Durban reached a deal on climate change that, however inadequate, is considered by most to be a breakthrough.
Following Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol yesterday, on the grounds that it was a dated document, Peter Kent, the Minister of he Environment, declared that good will had been demonstrated in Durban, and that the deal reached provided the basis for an agreement by 2015. He added that though the text provided a loophole for China and India, it represented the way forward.
Here are excerpts from an open letter to the delegates written by Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace, and Jay Naidoo, chairman of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, and keynote speaker at last summer’s Couchiching conference:
“…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.
“A tremendous moral and political responsibility has been visited upon you, but also the privilege of being the people – in this place, at this time – who can shift our world onto a new path. You can listen to us, the people, and put our needs and a sustainable environment above what you may feel is your national interest.
“But please believe us when we say there is no such thing as national interest any more. Just as apartheid was a profound moral challenge to the world, the effects of climate change know no borders. Conflict and mass migration will touch your shores if the thermostat continues to rise.
“Here in Africa an unpredictable climate is like a powder keg. Our food systems have stood on fragile ground in even the best of times. We have gone from a net exporter of food in the 1960s to being dependent on food aid today. Responsibility for success here does not lie only with the nations who ask us to carry the climate burden as this century unfolds. African leaders also need to take a stand.
“This is our issue. Close to four out of five Africans depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods. It provides 70% of Africa’s full-time employment, one third of total GDP and earns us 40% of total export earnings. Importantly, too, the majority of farmers in Africa are women, and women are (and will continue to be) in the eye of the climate storm. For every degree Celsius rise in temperature above the growing season optimum, farmers can expect a 10 percent decline in grain yields. This is not a problem for the future.
“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.”