Africa speaks out on Climate Change

Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson, Honorary President of Oxfam International and former UN commissioner for human rights, will hear testimony from people living on the climate front line at a special tribunal in Cape Town.

The climate witnesses from across Africa will testify about the impacts which climate change is already having on their lives. Tutu and Robinson will relay these messages to African and world leaders at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen at the end of the year. Over 125 hearings, involving more than half a million people, are being held in 17 countries ahead of the Summit which is set to agree a global deal to tackle climate change.

Climate change is a huge threat to development in Africa. Despite contributing less than 3 per cent of global emissions the continent will be hit hard. Scientists predict serious impacts on the production of many staple foods – with the average yields of maize in Southern Africa projected to decline by 30 percent. The number of people without adequate access to water on the continent is predicted to triple to 600 million by 2050.

Climate witnesses from Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Ethiopia and South Africa will be attending the hearing which is being organised by Oxfam International and South Africa’s Environmental Monitoring Group. Rachel Hesselman, a small-scale rooibos tea farmer from the Suid-Bokkeveld region in South Africa has worked hard to make the most of the opportunities which have opened up since the first democratic elections. She now sells organic fair trade certified rooibos tea to a growing local and foreign market. However her hard-won gains are being threatened by drought and rising temperatures.

International climate talks are now entering their second week in Bangkok. There are just 9 weeks to go till Copenhagen but many crucial issues - including how much new money is going to made available to help poor countries adapt to a changing climate – have yet to be resolved. 

Oxfam is calling for industrialized countries to take responsibility for the crisis they have created by delivering at least $150 billion a year in new money to help poor countries adapt to the changing climate and by cutting their domestic emissions by at least a 40 percent cut by 2020 (relative to 1990 levels).

Mary Robinson, Honorary President of Oxfam International, former UN Commissioner on human rights said:

“The testimony of women and men who are already struggling to cope with a changing climate is a powerful reminder of what is at stake in the international climate negotiations.  Already impoverished communities across Africa stand to lose so much because of a climate crisis in which they have played no part. Their voices - and their demands for a fair, ambitious and binding climate deal - deserve to be heard by political leaders in Africa and across the globe.” 

Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu said:

“In the same way the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission bore witness to the injustices of apartheid, this hearing will bear witness to the injustice of climate change. World leaders must not turn their backs on the people from across Africa and around the world who are struggling to cope with a changing climate. They must deliver the emissions reductions and the financial support that is needed now to prevent a human catastrophe.”

Irungu Houghton, Pan Africa Director for Oxfam International said:

“African leaders must the listen to people living on the climate front line. They must work together to press for a global climate deal that meets the needs of their poorest people and they must act at home to help their most vulnerable communities adapt.”

Notes to editors

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