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Putting Planet First in Climate Change Talks

People walk with a coffin as they protest against the usage of coal during a climate change conference at the city of Durban, South Africa, Thursday, Dec 1, 2011.  (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
People walk with a coffin as they protest against the usage of coal during a climate change conference at the city of Durban, South Africa, Thursday, Dec 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
Joe DeCapua

At the U.N. climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, there’s a call to view the issue as a moral imperative. The man who’s called South Africa’s green bishop says caring for the earth should take priority.

"Climate change is a moral issue and it must be met by the moral principles of justice, equity, compassion, love. And that we’ve got to really realize, that we’ve got to put the wellbeing of the planet and people before our financial considerations,” said retired Anglican Bishop Geoff Davies, coordinator of the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute.

Worse on the continent

The United Nations reports no other continent will be struck by climate change as severely as Africa. The global forecast calls for a two degree Celsius rise in temperatures in the coming years. But the U.N. says they could rise higher in Africa – possibly three degrees Celsius or more by 2050. Dryer subtropical regions could warm more than wetter areas.

“We in Africa are particularly concerned because the scientists are now saying that African average temperatures will increase twice as much as the global average. Already our temperatures have gone up 0.8 and we know the huge disruption of climate change already,” said Davies.

Cut emissions now

He said if African temperatures do increase by twice the global average the effects will be “catastrophic.” He called on the world’s major polluters to take strong measures now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“For the United States to say, well, we’ll start reducing emissions in a few years’ time – that’s millions of tons of carbon that will still be poured into the atmosphere for the next 100 years. We can’t bring that carbon back here. But we equally challenge the new polluting countries – China, India, ourselves, South Africa,” he said.

On Tuesday, the U.S. envoy to the climate talks, Todd Stern, said one of the big issues is China’s position on a legally binding agreement. He said the United States would consider such an agreement if all major greenhouse gas-emitting countries are fairly subject to its conditions.

Bishop Davies said developed nations can help Africa overcome its dependency on fossil fuels.

“The developed world can assist the developing countries - and I speak particularly for Africa - can assist us with technical cooperation and financial support that is owed to Africa to enable us to leapfrog the dirty fossil fuel era into the new solar and renewable energy era,” he said.

Bishop Davies spoke on behalf of the Climate Action Network International, which represents over 700 organizations in 95 countries. Its members are monitoring the proceedings at the climate change conference.

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