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Africa/Global: Archbishop Tutu on Fossil-Fuel Divestment
February 11, 2015 (150211)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"The destruction of the earth's environment is the human rights
challenge of our time. ... The most devastating effects are visited
on the poor, those with no involvement in creating the problem. A
deep injustice. Just as we argued in the 1980s that those who
conducted business with apartheid South Africa were aiding and
abetting an immoral system, today we say nobody should profit from
the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the
burning of fossil fuels." Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Please view and distribute widely this powerful short video by
Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
While the actual impact and potential threat of climate change
threaten the entire planet, Archbishop Tutu's remarks reiterate the
further truth that while some profit from causing the destruction,
it is the most vulnerable countries and the most vulnerable within
each country who bear the disproportionate burdens.
As noted in the articles by Deirdre Smith and Naomi Klein cited with
links immediately below the transcript of Tutu's remarks, that is
why the hashtags #divest and #BlackLivesMatter must be linked.
The differential value given to different lives, by race and place,
matches the hierarchy of economic and political power in today's
world. That reality, established over centuries, is not new. But
while one may or may not agree with Naomi Klein that climate change
can be the essential catalyst for new urgency in resolving these
interlinked crises, the linkage cannot be denied. Nor can anyone
safely ignore Archbishop Tutu's reminder that "time is running out."
The divestment movement is only part of the campaign for climate
justice, just as it was only part of the struggle to end apartheid.
But the momentum is growing, and contributes to the pressure for
governments to act and for investors to turn their attention to
clean energy. On February 13 and 14, groups around the world will be
participating in "Global Divestment Day" calling for full divestment
from fossil fuels and investment in a clean energy future (See
http://gofossilfree.org/divestment-day/ for details).
See below for summary talking points from AfricaFocus, links to
other relevant climate justice groups (including the Pan African
Climate Justice Alliance), recent news articles on renewable energy,
and previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on related issues.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Climate Change
Sep 22, 2014
Video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlh_ptOljkg
Transcript of Archbishop Tutu's remarks on climate change:
"The destruction of the earth's environment is the human rights
challenge of our time.
Over the 25 years that climate change has been on the world’s agenda
global emissions have risen unchecked while real world impacts have
taken hold in earnest.
Time is running out.
We are already experiencing loss of life and livelihood due to
intensified storms, shortage of fresh water, spread of disease,
rising food prices, and the creation of climate refugees.
The most devastating effects are visited on the poor, those with no
involvement in creating the problem. A deep injustice.
Just as we argued in the 1980s that those who conducted business
with apartheid South Africa were aiding and abetting an immoral
system, today we say nobody should profit from the rising
temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the burning of
We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as
if there is no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow.
We are on the cusp of a global transition to a new safe energy
economy. We must support our leaders to make the correct, moral
- Freeze further exploration for new fossil sources. We cannot
maintain a livable temperature and climate for humanity if we burn
more than a fraction of the fossil fuels already discovered.
- Hold those responsible for climate damages accountable. Change the
profit incentive by demanding legal liability for unsustainable
- Encourage governments to stop accepting funding from the fossil
fuel industry that blocks action on climate change.
- Divest from fossil fuels and invest in a clean energy future. Move
your money out of the problem and into solutions.
There is a word we use in South Africa that describes human
relationships: Ubuntu. It says: I am because you are. My success and
my failures are bound up in yours. We are made for each other, part
of one family, the human family, with one shared earth.
God bless you."
Key articles on the link between #divest and #BlackLivesMatter
* "Why the Climate Movement Must Stand with Ferguson," by Deirdre
Smith, August 20, 2014
http://350.org/ / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/m8focoy
It was not hard for me to make the connection between the tragedy in
Ferguson, Missouri, and the catalyst for my work to stop the climate
It's all over the news: images of police in military gear pointing
war zone weapons at unarmed black people with their hands in the
air. These scenes made my heart race in an all-to-familiar way. I
was devastated for Mike Brown, his family and the people of
Ferguson. Almost immediately, I closed my eyes and remembered the
same fear for my own family that pangs many times over a given year.
In the wake of the climate disaster that was Hurricane Katrina
almost ten years ago, I saw the same images of police, pointing
warzone weapons at unarmed black people with their hands in the air.
In the name of 'restoring order,' my family and their community were
demonized as 'looters' and 'dangerous.' When crisis hits, the
underlying racism in our society comes to the surface in very clear
ways. Climate change is bringing nothing if not clarity to the
persistent and overlapping crises of our time.
* "Why #BlackLivesMatter Should Transform the Climate Debate," by
Naomi Klein, December 12, 2014
http://www.thenation.com/ / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/ojojt4f
Taken together, the picture is clear. Thinly veiled notions of
racial superiority have informed every aspect of the non-response to
climate change so far. Racism is what has made it possible to
systematically look away from the climate threat for more than two
decades. It is also what has allowed the worst health impacts of
digging up, processing and burning fossil fuels--from cancer
clusters to asthma--to be systematically dumped on indigenous
communities and on the neighborhoods where people of colour live,
work and play. The South Bronx, to cite just one example, has
notoriously high asthma rates--and according to one study, a
staggering 21.8 percent of children living in New York City public
housing have asthma, three times higher than the rate for private
housing. The choking of those children is not as immediately lethal
as the kind of choking that stole Eric Garner's life, but it is very
If we refuse to speak frankly about the intersection of race and
climate change, we can be sure that racism will continue to inform
how the governments of industrialized countries respond to this
existential crisis. It will manifest in the continued refusal to
provide serious climate financing to poor countries so they can
protect themselves from heavy weather. It will manifest in the
fortressing of wealthy continents as they attempt to lock out the
growing numbers of people whose homes will become unlivable.
AfricaFocus Summary Talking Points
- Global warming and environmental damage from the fossil-fuel
industry already affect all of us, although responsibility lies
primarily with the rich industrialized countries and the newly
industrializing powers. Africa is the most vulnerable continent, but
extreme weather and sea-level rise have hit New Orleans and New
Jersey as well as Lagos.
- When industries make decisions based on short-term profits,
encouraged by government subsidies to established industries, they
systematically discount damages from "externalities." Visible
results include the devastation of oil-producing areas in the Niger
Delta and of coal-producing areas, whether in South Africa or West
Virginia. The longer-term consequences in rising temperatures and
more extreme weather will be even more devastating.
- Action to combat climate change depends in part on decisions made
in international conferences, where the primary obstacles to action
are the rich countries and the newly industrializing powers. But
efforts at many other levels are also of decisive importance.
Fossil-fuel divestment campaigns, as they grow and multiply, can
affect investment choices. So can technological innovation. Notably,
clean energy can already be more cost-effective than large-scale
fossil fuel plants in supplying distributed energy access to Africa.
For more from AfricaFocus on Climate Change and the Environment,
Key Organizational Contacts on Climate Change and Fossil-Fuel
Divestment Student Network (USA)
Climate Justice Alliance (USA)
Go Fossil Free
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)
Notable recent reports on economics of renewable energy
- "Renewable energy costs to drop 40 percent in next two years"
02/02/15, new report on worldwide develoopment from International
Renewable Energy Agency
- "Africa's quiet solar revolution," survey by Christian Science
Monitor, Jan 25, 2015
- "Africa's Largest Wind Farm," Dec. 24, 2014, construction
beginning at Lake Turkana
- South Africa's Eskom in crisis over high costs and low efficiency,
renewable projects offer new options.
http://tinyurl.com/qbjgpg5 (Jan 16 article on Eskom) and
http://allafrica.com/stories/201501211312.html (new study on savings
from renewable energy in South Africa)
- Slow start for renewable energy in Niger Delta, Feb 2, 2015
Recent AfricaFocus Bulletins on Climate Change
(1) Fossil-Fuel Divestment
November 11, 2014 Africa/Global: Fossil-Fuel Divestment Growing
The latest international scientific statement on the disastrous and
potentially irreversible damage from climate change is unambiguous,
as is the imperative for drastic action to curb greenhouse gas
emissions. But political obstacles to moving from rhetoric to action
are virtually unchanged, despite massive demonstrations coinciding
with the UN climate summit in late September. The dispersed fossilfuel
divestment movement, however, although still too small to curb
the industry, is growing rapidly.
Mar 10, 2013 Africa/Global: Fossil-Fuel Divestment
The fossil-fuel divestment movement now gaining momentum on college
campuses to fight climate change frequently evokes the precedent of
the anti-apartheid divestment campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s. But
there are other Africa connections that are also beginning to be
made. Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change and
extreme weather events. American and other multinational companies
have a long history of environmental destruction in areas such as
the Niger Delta. And while many African countries look to fossilfuel
exploitation to fund their development, the experience of the
"resource curse" shows that the profits may fuel gross inequality
and capital flight rather than development.
(2) Renewable Energy Prospects
September 22, 2014 Africa: Climate Action & Economic Growth
It is still conventional wisdom to pit action to curb climate change
against economic growth. But the evidence is rapidly accumulating
that this is a false dilemma, buttressed by vested interests in the
fossil fuel industry and a simplistic concept of economic growth.
According to a report just released by the Global Commission on the
Economy and Climate, falling prices for renewable energy and careful
analysis of both costs and benefits of low-carbon vs. high-carbon
investment strategies point to a clear conclusion: saving the planet
and saving the economy go hand in hand.
August 18, 2014 Africa: From Kerosene to Solar
The largest marketer of solar lamps in Africa, which recently passed
the one million mark in lamps sold, has set an ambitious target for
the industry. ""Our mission is to eradicate the kerosene lamp from
Africa by the end of this decade," proclaims Solar Aid. Although
achieving this goal would require the pico-solar market to emulate
mobile phone industry's exponential growth path, it may not be as
utopian as it sounds. According to market research company Navigant
Research, "Off-grid solar lighting for base of the pyramid (BOP)
markets, the leading solar PV consumer product segment, is
transitioning from a humanitarian aspiration to big business."
June 30, 2014 Africa: Clean Energy Most Cost-Effective
"From off-grid LED lighting to 'Skinny Grids,' we can now provide
energy access with a fraction of the amount of power we used to
need. More importantly, we can unlock affordable initial
interventions -- like lighting, mobile phone charging, fans, and TVs
plus a small amount of agro processing -- to help people get onto
the energy ladder today rather than forcing them to wait decades for
a grid extension that may never come. ... It's important to
understand that we aren't just imagining this clean energy market
growth -- it's already happening." -- Justin Guay, Sierra Club
January 21, 2014 South Africa: Renewables Rising, Coal Still King
"South Africa [is] the world's sixth-largest coal exporter, seventhlargest
coal producer, and thirteenth-largest CO2 emitter, with percapita
emissions twice the global average. Ninety-four percent of
the country's electricity comes from coal ... The country's abundant
solar and wind resources offer a promising renewable energy
alternative. But entrenched political interests connected to the
ruling party are fighting to expand coal's role in the national
economy." - Adam Welz, "The Future of Coal"
(3) Destructive Impact of Fossil-Fuel Production
February 26, 2014 Africa: Tracking Toxic Pollution
The damages produced by modern economies, termed "externalities" by
economists, most often do not figure in the market signals shaping
corporate profits and therefore corporate decision-making. The
result, both in advanced economies or around the world, includes not
only the massive threat to our common future through global warming,
but also extraordinary levels of toxic pollution disproportionately
affecting the most vulnerable. Of the top ten toxic threats around
the world identified in a new report, three are in Africa: the
Agbogbloshie Dumpsite for e-waste in Ghana, the entire Niger Delta
region in Nigeria, and the now-closed but still deadly lead mining
site in Kabwe, Zambia.
Aug 12, 2011 Nigeria: Past Time for Oil Cleanup, 1
The fact that the environment of the Niger Delta, and that portion
of it known as Ogoniland, has been devastated by oil pollution for
decades should not be news. It has been repeatedly exposed by
Nigerian and international activists in print, court testimony,
photographs, and films, and punctuated by the 1995 martyrdom of Ken
Saro-Wiwa and his fellow Ogoni activists. But this month, for the
first time, a comprehensive scientific survey of oil pollution in
Ogoniland has concluded that the pollution is even more pervasive
than many previously assumed. Simultaneously, in response to a
class-action suit in London, Shell Oil has accepted responsibility
for two massive oil spills in Ogoniland in 1998.
Aug 12, 2011 Nigeria: Past Time for Oil Cleanup, 2
"Shell faces a bill of hundreds of millions of dollars after
accepting full liability for two massive oil spills that devastated
a Nigerian community of 69,000 people and may take at least 20 years
to clean up. Experts who studied video footage of the spills at Bodo
in Ogoniland say they could together be as large as the 1989 Exxon
Valdez disaster in Alaska, when 10m gallons of oil destroyed the
remote coastline." - Guardian
(4) Other Recent AfricaFocus Bulletins On Climate Change
November 11, 2014 Africa/Global: Climate Change Summary Report
"The world's top scientists and governments have issued their
bluntest plea yet to the world: Slash carbon pollution now (at a
very low cost) or risk 'severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts
for people and ecosystems.' Scientists have 'high confidence' these
devastating impacts occur 'even with adaptation' -- if we keep doing
little or nothing." - Joe Romm, Editor, Climate Progress
December 15, 2014 Africa/Global: Postponing Climate Decisions
"It was not hard for me to make the connection between the tragedy
in Ferguson, Missouri, and the catalyst for my work to stop the
climate crisis. ... In the wake of the climate disaster that was
Hurricane Katrina almost ten years ago, I saw the same images of
police, pointing war-zone weapons at unarmed black people with their
hands in the air. ... When crisis hits, the underlying racism in our
society comes to the surface in very clear ways." - Deirdre Smith,
350.org, August 20, 2014
November 18, 2013 Africa: Time to Pay for Climate "Loss and Damage"
"The U.S. delegation negotiating at the U.N. international climate
change conference in Poland is pushing an agenda of minimising the
role of "Loss and Damage" in the UNFCCC framework, prioritising
private finance in the Green Climate Fund, and delaying the deadline
for post-2020 emission reduction commitments, according to a State
Department negotiating strategy which IPS has seen." Inter Press
Dec 13, 2012 Africa: Time for Climate Justice
The latest international conference on climate change has concluded
in Doha, with the predictable "low-ambition" results. Meanwhile,
reports proliferate on the disastrous consequences for Africa and
the entire planet if governments do not begin to overcome their
lethargy in slowing carbon emissions and preparing for adaptation to
the changes from global warming already built into the global
Oct 3, 2012 Southern Africa: Climate Threat to Zambezi Basin
According to a new study released in September, "There will be a
significant reduction in the amount of water flowing through the
[Zambezi] river system, affecting all eight countries it passes
through. The water that feeds the river is expected to decrease by
between 26 percent and 40 percent in another four decades. But when
the rains do fall, they will be more intense, triggering more
extreme floods." Nevertheless, says the author of the study,
planning for existing and new dams does not yet take account of the
impact of climate change in reducing power generation and capacity
for flood control.
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