Climate Justice for Sustainable Peace in Africa



A message from African faith leaders to the 17th Conference of the Parties
(COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),
from 29 November – 9 December 2011 in Durban, South Africa.

  You must treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It is
loaned to you by your children. – Kikuyu proverb

  1. Introduction

Africa is a continent of the faithful. We gathered as
African faith leaders at UNEP in Nairobi, Kenya on 7th and 8th
June 2011, to discuss climate change and how it will be addressed at COP17.

Scientific reports indicate that climate change may
well be the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced, with, on current
targets, probable increased global warming of 2.5⁰C to 4⁰C by 2100[i]
– widely agreed to be disastrous. Yet progress in international negotiations
has not matched the scale of the crisis. There appears to be a deadlock between
competing political and economic interests from various power blocs. We believe
that to break this deadlock, new perspectives are required.

Firstly, economic and political processes have to be
based on ecological principles, and not vice versa. There can be no infinite
economic or population growth on a finite planet.

Secondly, there is a profound need for a renewed moral
vision for the future of humanity and indeed of all life. We debase human
beings by seeing them only as economic instruments, and debase the sanctity of
life by commodifying it.

We must realise that well-being cannot be equated with
material wealth. The quality of life is not dependent on the quantity of
material things or growth measured by GDP. Instead, our standard of living
depends on our standard of loving and sharing. We cannot sustain a world
dominated by profit-seeking, rampant consumerism and gross inequalities, and an
atmosphere of competition where the powerful take advantage of the weak without
caring for the well-being of every form of life. Development cannot be
sustained if the affluent project themselves as examples to be copied by
everyone else, and if the poor model their lifestyles on such examples.

These insights draw from the rich moral and spiritual
traditions on our continent and elsewhere in the world. Despite the historical violence  and disorganisation that Africa has suffered
and inflicted on itself, these insights have been transmitted to us by our
ancestors who believed in the harmony of vital forces, between human beings and
the rest of creation.

In our African spiritual heritage and our diverse
faith traditions, trees, flowers, water, soil and animals have always been
essential companions of human beings, without which life and being are
inconceivable. We express this in different ways through our understanding of
the world as God’s own beloved creation, and our sense of place and vocation
within it.

Our ways of thinking and feeling deeply influence the
world around us. As we find compassion, peace and harmony within ourselves, we
will begin to treat the Earth with respect, resist disorder and live in peace
with each other, including embracing a binding climate treaty. We pray that
compassion will guide these negotiations.

2.    Our
commitments as faith leaders

Our African people and nations have to overcome the
temptation of seeing ourselves as victims, who have no role and responsibility
to play in reversing the current situation – we are part of the solution.

As African faith leaders, our responsibilities will be

  • Set a good example for our faith communities by
    examining our personal needs and reducing unsustainable consumption.
  • Lead local communities to understand the threat
    of climate change and the need to build economies and societies based on a
    revitalised moral vision.
  • Draw on our spiritual resources to foster
    crucial ecological virtues such as wisdom, justice, courage and
    temperance, and to confront vices such as greed in our own midst.
  • Acknowledge that climate change has greatly
    affected already vulnerable people (such as women, children, the elderly,
    the poor and the disabled), that it worsens existing inequalities and that
    this places an obligation on faith groups to stand in solidarity with the
    victims of climate change disasters, showing care, compassion and love.
  • Plant indigenous trees and promote ecological

3.    Our
message to all world leaders

As citizens, we are asked to put our trust in
representatives at COP17 to decide upon our common future. We have no doubt
that the Durban COP must decide on a treaty – and second commitment period for
the Kyoto Protocol – that is fair, ambitious and legally binding, to ensure the
survival of coming generations.

We therefore call on you to:

  • Commit to the principle
    of inter-generational equity, the rights of our children for generations
    to come, and to the rights of Mother Earth as outlined in the Cochabamba
  • Refute the myth that
    action to cut emissions is too expensive, when it is far cheaper than the
    long-term costs of inaction.
  • Acknowledge that
    investments in sustainability are a better guarantor of peace than
    military spending.
  • Abandon Gross Domestic
    Product (GDP) as an indicator of prosperity in favour of indicators that
    include human wellbeing, equality and the external environmental costs of
    human economies.
  • Set clear final targets
    for phasing out the use of all fossil fuels, and deep interim reductions
    in carbon emissions that support the target of no more than one degree of
    global warming.
  • Ensure that there is
    sufficient climate finance for adaptation in Africa, additional to
    existing development aid and that it is governed inclusively and equitably
    under the United Nations.
  • Channel sufficient and
    predictable climate finance and technology from the historic polluting
    nations, in recognition of their ecological debt, to enable Africa to
    leapfrog into an age of clean energy technology.
  • Close the gap between
    wealthy countries’ pledges to cut warming emissions and what science and
    equity require.
  • Assign for wealthy
    countries emission quotas that are consistent with the full measure of
    their historical responsibility.

4.    Our
message to Africa’s political leaders

We further urge African
political leaders, as many of you are members of our faith communities, to take
these particular measures:

To regain a united voice and abandon expedient
allegiances with blocs that are scrambling to appropriate Africa’s natural

Recognise in all policy statements that our long-term
social and economic interests require the stability of our biophysical
environment today.

Prioritise measures and adopt policies to resolve
environmental degradation in our nations.

  • Acknowledge and pre-empt the violence at all levels that climate change and
    environmental degradation is already fueling on the continent.
  • Adopt and   enact land policies that ensure equity and justice for all.
  • Resist the  approval of transactions with exploitative corporations that would cause
    serious environmental damage.
  • Promote  indigenous tree planting and protection of existing forests, lakes and
  • Build much greater capacity within long-standing teams of climate negotiators.
  • Greatly improve communications within and between African governments, and
    consultation with civil society, including faith communities, on issues of
    climate change.
  1. Conclusion

Every human generation is faced by particular challenges
and opportunities. If we do not secure a stable climate for the sake of future
generations, we will be held accountable by them and judged by history.

On this very critical issue of climate change, we must
not fail. Every lost moment increases an irreversible threat to life on Earth.

8 June 2011:– This communique was compiled jointly by 130 faith leaders
representing Muslim, Christian, Hindu, African traditional,
Bahá’í and Buddhist communities
from 30 countries across Africa.

For more
information, please contact:

Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute SAFCEI):

Bishop Geoff Davies (Cape Town): +27 83 754 5275,,

All Africa Conference of Churches:

Arthur Shoo (Nairobi): (254-20) 4441483,


Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (Procmura):

Rev Dr Johnson Mbillah (Nairobi):

[i] Joeri Rogel,
Claudine Chen, Julia Nabel and others, “Analysis of the Copenhagen Accord pledges and its
global climatic impacts— a snapshot of dissonant ambitions”,
Environmental Research Letters 5


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