Corporations, governments and institutions that continue to invest in fossil fuels despite all the evidence of their effect on accelerating climate change are furthering environmental, economic and social injustice, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former US Vice President Al Gore agreed at a meeting facilitated by the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in the city today.
Fossil fuels drove northern hemisphere industrialisation and development, but it was relatively poorer southern hemisphere nations that could least afford to mitigate the impacts of climate change and would bear the highest costs, Archbishop Tutu and former Vice President Gore said.
They called on those who remained invested in fossil fuels to urgently commit to clear and actionable plans to shift their investments to renewable sources of energy. Investing in renewable energy systems and research would provide the necessary impetus to drive down costs and increase demand for clean energy.
The Archbishop and former Vice President recalled working together on the apartheid divestment campaign in the 1980s after being recruited by student activists to stand for election to the university’s Board of Overseers. The campaign led to Harvard divesting its endowment from South African stocks.
“Any organisation committed to operating responsibly in this new decade has a moral imperative to stop participating in financing the destruction of human civilization’s future, and to instead invest in renewable sources of energy. That is particularly important for institutions that aspire to provide leadership in our society and to become a part of the solution to the climate crisis,” they said today.
As student activists did in the 1980’s during the successful anti-apartheid campaign, and before that in the 1960’s during the U.S. Civil Rights campaign, young people around the world in the 2020s, including Greta Thunberg, are urging bold action to sharply reduce pollution and irrevocably turn away from the previous century’s dependence on fossil fuels.
The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation became a signatory of the fossil fuel divest-invest campaign in 2014. In an article in The Guardian at the time, the Archbishop wrote: “Just as we argued in the 1980s that those who conducted business with apartheid South Africa were aiding and abetting an immoral system, we can say that nobody should profit from the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the burning of fossil fuels.”
Photograph: Roger Friedman, Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu with former US Vice President Al Gore in Cape Town.