Protect the vulnerable from climate change or face disaster

The Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation endorses United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’s call for the global community to take immediate action to protect those suffering from increasingly frequent and severe climate change events.

Climate change is no longer a future threat; it is visible across the world, from the drought that has affected food security for 13.6-million people across 11 Southern African countries, to the displacement of thousands of Pacific islanders due to rising seas and natural disasters.

Climate change affects every one of us, but it is the poor and vulnerable who are most susceptible. We have a moral duty to do everything we can to come to their aid.

Doing so is also to humanity’s general benefit. As Guterres pointed out in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 23 February1, climate change is the greatest threat to security that the world has ever faced. We agree.

Unless we protect those most exposed and susceptible to climate-related impacts, we can expect them to become even more marginalised, and their grievances to be reinforced.

Mr Guterres’s words were echoed by climate activist Sir David Attenborough who, speaking to the UN Security Council this week2, said the global community has a duty to work together to help people who are in immediate danger.

We agree with Mr Guterres and Sir David that this threat should unite the global community, and that the Covid-19 pandemic, which has entered its second year, has underlined how interconnected we all are.

This year’s climate change talks, in Glasgow from 1 to 12 November, are critical.

The Covid-19 pandemic has already added urgency to our questioning of the world’s dominant economic model by making our interconnectedness crystal clear. Now is the time to figure out how we can overhaul our economic systems so that all 7.6-billion of us can share the world and its natural resources in a manner that protects our future.

Entrepreneur Bill Gates recently published a book that offers some practical ways in which we can do this. These require courage from corporate entities and investors, and he warns they will take time, but, he points out, for perhaps the first time ever there is growing interest from corporate entities and governments to do just this.

The time is now.