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Champion for justice, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, says "We can swim or sink only together" in Copenhagen

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Nobel Laureate and hero from the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, known as "the voice of the voiceless" is one of the strongest moral voices on climate change in recent years.

As disorder reigns and frustration builds at the Copenhagen Climate summit, his voice, joined with that of the bold leadership from African countries, is something we should all heed.

This letter is cross-posted from and

Your excellency,

I write urgently to you after meeting last night with the Chairperson of the G77 at his request. This is after the walkout from the UN Climate Talks which have deadlocked.

Ambassador Di-Aping showed me papers quoting from the IPCC's 4th Assessment Report which declared that Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change and climate variability. In all four regions of Africa (West African, South African, East African, and Saharan), and in all seasons, the median temperature rise lies between 3 degrees C and 4 degrees C, roughly 1.5 times the global mean response.

Africa's major economic sectors are vulnerable to current climate sensitivity exacerbated by factors such as endemic poverty, complex governance challenges, limited access to capital, infrastructure and technology as well as ecosystem degradation and other disasters and conflict.

If temperatures are not kept down then Africa faces a range of devastating threats such as crop yield reductions, in places of as much as 50%, in some countries by 2020; Increased pressure on water supplies for 70 - 250 million people by 2020 and 350 - 600 million by 2050; The cost of adaptation to sea level rises of at least 5 - 10% of gross domestic product.

I think this is common cause. We are facing impending disaster on a monstrous scale. To keep temperature increase in Africa to below 1.5 degrees C requires a global goal of less than 1 degree C; keeping it below 2 degrees in Africa would require a global goal of less than 1.3 degrees C. that is the crux of the matter. A global goal of about 2 degrees C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development. And then of course there is the matter of funding mitigation and adaptation.

The Africans do not want to be spoilers. They know that we are in this together. We have but one earth home. If we do not reach a legally binding deal that takes account of all that has been outlined above then we are all doomed. We can swim or sink only together. The African group wants a deal, a fair ambitious and legally enforceable deal. If the issues that I have delineated above are not dealt with fairly and generously, attributes that have characterized most of the developed world, then it were better to have no deal than to have a bad deal.

This is a moral issue, it is a matter of justice for especially the weak and most vulnerable and the developed world is noted for seeking to do what is right and good.

I pray that my appeal to you will not fall on deaf ears.

God bless you,

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

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