SOUTH African anti-apartheid icon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said Sunday that a failure by world leaders to take action against climate change at the Paris conference will trigger global social upheaval.
“Failing to grasp the nettle will send a direct message of contempt to poorer nations and people, who cannot afford the costs of mitigating the impacts of increasing temperatures” Tutu said in a statement.
“It will trigger unprecedented economic and refugee crises, and dramatically deepen global insecurity.”
Tutu, 84, a friend of South Africa’s first democratic president Nelson Mandela, is seen as the moral conscience of the nation through the years of apartheid racism and beyond.
“COP21 is not just about the weather; it is a unique opportunity for the world’s leaders to address global inequity,” he said.
It was an opportunity for powerful people and nations to acknowledge that their well being was dependent on the well being, security and sustainability of others.
“Our leaders can no longer claim not to know. If they don’t take action they will be saying very clearly that they don’t care.”
Tutu said that 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,” he said.
“A narrow window of opportunity opens in Paris next week,” he said. “Anything less than a legally enforceable treaty on carbon emissions will be to condemn our children to inheriting a disfigured world and a blighted human family.”
Some 150 leaders are due to attend the UN conference in Paris, tasked with reaching the first truly universal climate pact.
The goal is to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by curbing fossil fuel emissions.