By Vanya Walker-Leigh for ACNS
CAPETOWN, South Africa—Archbishop of Capetown and Primate of Southern Africa, Dr Thabo Makgoba, has said that he had hoped “much greater progress would have been made at COP 17 - the recent UN climate change conference in Durban.
“It saddens me that this is the best that could happen,” he said, “but we’re on a journey together. I believe that some of the largest polluters don’t understand the urgency of the issue and how small island nations are already suffering greatly as well as part of sub-Saharan Africa. I hope that is the case, because it would sadden me to know they understand that gravity and just don’t care.”
The Archbishop had a clear message for officials who will be filling out the framework of the ‘Durban package’ over the next three years in which nations pledged to negotiate a broad-based and binding agreement by 2015 with entry into force in 2020.
“I would urge them to listen to the voices of those suffering and to do all they can to find a way for those dragging the process back to experience the reality of the others. We all have to learn to live for the good of everyone on this planet. We don’t want to fulfil what the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr. once said: ‘Either we will learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools.’”
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa primate recently took over the chair of the Anglican Communion Environment Network (ACEN) from Bishop George Browning, former Bishop of Canberra, Australia. Admitting that he was still familiarising himself with the network's activities Archbishop Thabo though ACEN “must definitely become more active in advocacy.”
“It will be important to ensure our network is representative of all our various Provinces, and also to set up effective communications structures so that we can mobilise the Anglican Communion around advocacy issues,” he said.
“If COP 17 taught us anything, it taught us that the narrowly drawn interests of governments, influenced by powerful industry, seem to hold sway over moral arguments and our responsibilities to one another on this planet. That has to change. The presence of so many religious leaders in Durban had quite an effect on the COP 17 President [Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa's Minister for International Relations and Co-operation]. I believe that many leaders in government want and need the voices of a unified faith community on this issue. It may embolden and even empower them to make the right, moral, decisions – for the good of all”, the Archbishop explained.
“In my view, we need to continue with grassroots organising and public policy advocacy. Where governments were obstinate and/or obstructed progress, Anglican Provinces should double their efforts to speak to and work with their governments and to build inter-faith coalitions and work with civil society to make their voices heard.”
“Across the Communion we should share knowledge and experiences as widely as possible. Another key priority is getting the voice of the faith communities heard from inside the negotiating space. What has tended to happen is that the faith communities speak from outside of the negotiations rather than putting our efforts into getting faith leaders onto the central platform to be heard by all.”
The Archbishop clearly hopes that the next Anglican Consultative Council—meeting in New Zealand near the end of the year—will acknowledge COP 17 and its outcomes as a way to urge the whole Anglican family to continue to keep the pressure on governments and the UN.
With the next COP (Conference of Parties) being held in Qatar at the end of November 2012, the Archbishop firmly supports a 'high profile' interfaith presence there.
“If you asked the President of COP 17, [who remains in office until the first day of the Qatar conference] she too would respond in the affirmative. I also believe that somehow the influence of the inter-faith community has to start now in the intervening months, because it seems that a lot of the possibility for input and influence occurs before the negotiators begin to arrive in Qatar.”
“Let me add that one problem I see with the COP negotiating process is its negatively expressed focus, on ‘reduction of carbon emissions’. This in turn tends to elicit a negative response. Perhaps it would be better to have a positive goal, for example, increasing the percentage of energy produced by renewable energy.”
“I also hope we will continue to encourage our Provinces, Dioceses, parishes and congregations to become as ‘green’ as possible and to work in ecumenical and inter-faith settings wherever feasible. We all live on the same planet – we have no other home.”
Notes to Editors
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