Tutu says world must seize last chance at COP21 climate talks

(Photo: © Sean Hawkey /WCC)Silent protestors in Paris with a message on global warning ahead of the COP21 UN climate connference in Paris on Nov. 29, 2015.

The COP21 climate conference in Paris is humanity's last chance and it should focus on global inequality as "global warming is the human rights challenge of our time" say Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Rev. Canon Mpho Tutu issued a statement Nov. 30 on behalf of their foundation noting the conference offers a narrow opportunity that world leaders must seize.

"We are in uncharted territory. Never before have representatives of the entire human family had the opportunity to sit down together and collectively change the trajectory of our species and our earth," they said.

In Paris Nov. 30, faith campaigners presented a total of 1,780,528 signatures gathered worldwide calling for decisive action to curb global warming.

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The petitions were delivered to leaders of the United Nations COP 21 climate conference beginning its work in Paris.

'WE CAN DO IT TOGETHER'

"We can do it together, we must do it together, and we will do it together," said Anglican Archbishop and "ACT ambassador" Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town as he handed over the petitions to Christiana Figueres, who heads the UN body dealing with climate change, and Nicolas Hulot, French President François Hollande's special envoy for the planet.

Makgoba is the global climate ambassador for ACT Alliance, a worldwide coalition of 137 churches and affiliated organizations working for positive and sustainable change.

The handover took place at a "Faith in Climate Justice" event on 28 November in St Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, attended by about 400 people including climate campaigners, many of whom had walked hundreds of miles on pilgrimages to the French capital.

In June the World Council of Churches and the poverty-fighting UK based Christian Aid praised Pope Francis for his call for a radical rethinking of humanity's relationship with the earth in which he urges people of faith in all walks of life.

The Pope's encyclical called Laudato si (May you be praised) asks "What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?"

Almost 150 heads of State and government are assembling in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties facing pressure to reach a historic deal to curb harmful emissions as past such conferences have failed to deliver on minimalist needs.

"That is why we say: Global warming is the human rights challenge of our time. If we do not address it, collectively, it can only mean we have decided that the rights of some members of the human family are more important than others," said the Tutus.

With Paris in a security lockdown following last weekend's terror attacks expectations are riding high. More than 600,000 people in 175 countries marched at the weekend to demand a strong deal to curb greenhouse gases, Sky News reported.

The Tutus said the closest the world has come to achieving global consensus on anything in the past was the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that opened for signature in 1968 and has been ratified by 191 of 195recognized States.

"But it is surely much simpler to agree not to fire nukes at each other than it is to agree to alter deeply entrenched behaviour patterns, reign in consumptiveness, threaten personal wealth and undermine powerful business interests.

"Which is exactly what we have to do."

Ahead of the Paris talks 183 nations have submitted individual commitments of varying degrees on how to shackle global warming.

Over the next two weeks negotiators will try to hammer out common ground to steer the global economy away from dependence on fossil fuels and to hold back the earth's rising temperatures and increasing climate unpredictability.

'MOMENTUM TO CHANGE'

"The momentum towards change has come, and it might be stronger than we understand", wrote Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches in an Advent message on the eve of the Paris talks.

"A 'green shift' is now more possible than ever", wrote Tveit, hailing progress with renewable energy initiatives and referring to the withdrawal of investments from fossil fuel industries.

(Photo: Sean Hawkey / WCC)On the eve of UN climate talks called COP21 in Paris, demonstrators gathered in the Place de la Republique in Paris. Frustrated at the planned climate march being banned following terror attacks the preceding weekend, riot police were brought in to ensure the march didn't happen and some confrontations ensued on Nov. 29, 2015

"Many larger companies understand this development and are making decisions towards ending the use of fossil energy in the next five to 15 years, a great shift from the previously projected 30-40 years," he wrote.

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