A Plea to the UN from Africa

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The United Nations General Secretary, Antonio Guterres knows how serious and destructive climate change is. Recent weather events underscore this. It is our hope, as people of faith and as expressed globally by the next generation on 20th September at the Climate Strike, that political leaders will recognise this.

We know too that we cannot cease burning fossil fuels overnight (though that is no excuse to delay ending our reliance on fossil fuels, nor does it justify the continued exploration and subsidizing of fossil fuels).  However, what we can do and call for is an immediate global ban on the cutting, burning and destruction of indigenous, historical forests.

Planting trees is often a misguided and sometimes harmful justification for deforestation.  Newly planted trees, frequently alien plantations in inappropriate habitats, are no substitute for indigenous forests, many of which are centuries old as well as providing the habitat for millions of species.  By destroying an indigenous forest, we destroy biodiversity. By destroying biodiversity, we destroy our own life support systems.

We are intricately part of the web of life on this planet.  As we unravel the web of life, we unravel our own well-being and survival.

All political leaders should know that we now live in a global village. If nations want global trade, they must then recognise their global responsibilities.  We cannot have a nation destroying the lungs of the planet for its own financial interests. Brazil must stop claiming national sovereignty as a justification. So must all nations. We know how hard it is in the climate talks to get agreement on regulations, but this global village is now requiring regulations and controls to stop the destruction of life on this planet.

It is not only the Amazon that is burning. Africa is burning. It is burning in Angola, the Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Madagascar. China, or any other nation, does not have the right to deforest Africa.

The collapse of previous civilizations has frequently been the consequence of deforestation (Jared Diamond, “UpheavelUpheaval”). But previous generations did not have the benefit of renewable energy.

The simple application of "climate justice" by the "developed" rich countries of the world could enable Africa to leapfrog the dirty fossil fuel era into the clean renewable energy era. If there is an objection from the rich/developed countries that they couldn't afford this, let it be known that this is simply not true. All that is needed is to shift the annual expenditure of around $650 billion spent on fossil fuel subsidies and exploration for new resources, and invest in renewable energy. Furthermore, halve the incredibly wasteful and irresponsible expenditure on so-called “defence” of a wWorld total in 2018 of US$1.822 billion. (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), and direct it to overcoming poverty and environmental destruction, and bring clean energy to Africa. Seek justice and peace, not military domination.

By rolling out solar micro-grids, villages across Africa could be empowered. This would be a massive employment and economic boost for, let's say, the USA, and would mean people in Africa would no longer need to rely on charcoal to cook their food. It would also transform education in Africa as pupils could study at night.

Without urgent and meaningful steps to reduce carbon emissions, it is predicted that there will be at least 200 million climate refugees. It won’t be Africa’s fault. The whole of Africa is responsible for 4% of carbon emissions, yet Africa will suffer the most.

No nation can claim that its “national sovereignty" allows it to destroy the planet and the common well-being of humanity. If the UN is unable to implement controls to stop deforestation is it not time that political leaders such as Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Scott Morrison in Australia are taken to court for failing to take steps to counter the effects of global warming? Unfortunately, Ecocide is not yet on the statute books of the International Criminal Court.   Equally CEOs of major fossil fuel companies are liable. They were informed in the 1970s of the consequences of burning coal, oil, gas. Instead, they knowingly continued expanding with the knowledge that they were destroying life on this planet, our only home.

The recent 10th World Assembly of Religions for Peace in its Declaration recognized a “profound moral obligation to make care for tropical forests a top spiritual priority”.


Bishop Geoff Davies****t + 27 21 788 6591geoff.davies@safcei.org.zaPatron               C + 27 83 754 5275        P O Box 106, Kalk Bay, 7990