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FACTBOX – Prayers, petitions and boycotts: Desmond Tutu’s climate activism
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FACTBOX – Prayers, petitions and boycotts: Desmond Tutu’s climate activism

The world’s leaders have paid tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a peace activist and anti-apartheid South African Archbishop, who died last Sunday at the age of 90. They praised his tireless advocacy on social justice issues ranging from inequality, racism, homophobia, and climate change.

As the effects of global warming became more obvious, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was a symbol for the environment. He used his influence to hold governments accountable and to give voice to young climate activists from Africa. Here are some of the ways that Tutu put the spotlight on the climate emergency ahead of his funeral on Saturday.

BOYCOTTS Antiapartheid activist were able to overthrow the rule of the white minority by calling for boycotts, sanctions and sanctions against South Africa’s racist regime. This tactic Tutu often recommended to cut down on our dependence on fossil fuels that heat the planet.

Tutu encouraged his audience to avoid media, sports teams and events sponsored or funded by fossil-fuel companies through speeches, interviews, and articles. He also advised them to buy low-carbon goods. He also called for universities and municipalities to break ties with big oil corporations and invest in clean energy.

PETITIONS Tutu used the profile to collect nearly 333.500 signatures for a petition urging then-US President Barack Obama, former U.N. SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon and other leaders to set a goal to have 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Tutu referred to climate change as one of the “greatest moral problems of our age” in his petition. This effort was part a global campaign by religious leaders to press politicians to take ambitious climate action before the 2015 U.N summit, where about 195 countries signed the Paris Agreement to reduce global warming.

Tutu’s activism inspired University of Cape Town students, who launched their own petition to ask the university to abandon fossil fuels in favor of sustainable energy. After years of campaigning and a petition handover in 2016, the university’s responsible investments panel recommended that the university divest from fossil fuels by 2030.

THE ELDERS Tutu was The Elders’ first chair. This global group of senior human right activists and political leaders advocates for peace. Tutu used this platform publicly to push for urgent measures to combat climate change.

The Elders, under Tutu’s leadership, lobbied world leaders for a path towards the 1.5-degree Celsius limit of global warming in the Paris Pact. This was done through conferences and blogs written by youth climate activists. PEACE LECTURE

An annual Peace Lecture is held every year on Tutu’s Birthday as part of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, which was established to promote human right research and leadership training. For the 10th edition, Vanessa Nakate (a Ugandan youth activist) was invited to speak on climate justice. She highlighted the unfair effects of a warming planet, and how African women, and children, face both poverty, and climate shocks.

Nakate, who works with Greta Thunberg and other teens to promote youth climate protests, has attracted international attention for her use of platforms such as the Peace Lecture or U.N. climate talks to highlight the issues affecting Africa. Ayakha, a South African youth climate activist was invited to speak at Tutu foundation lecture.

PRAYERS: Tutu used his position of religious leader during apartheid to push interfaith interventions like petitions, marches and prayers for the end of human rights abuses, to support marginalized people, and to address climate change.

His 2015 Paris petition was part the “Faiths for Earth Initiative”, which brought together religious leaders from around the globe to press governments for stronger climate action. Tutu also shared an internet prayer for the planet in preparation of the 2014 United Nations climate leaders summit.

Tutu wrote the prayer, “We pray for our leaders and custodians Mother Earth… may these negotiate with wisdom and fairness… and lead we in the path to justice for the sake our children and their children.” EARTH HOUR

Tutu was also an Earth Hour supporter, led by the global green organization WWF. It unites individuals, communities and businesses in turning off their lights for one hour each year to conserve energy and raise awareness. An event that began in Sydney in 2007 has grown to be an international campaign with millions of participants.

Tutu stated that if everyone does this one simple act together, it will send an overwhelming message to our governments. He said, “They’ll know that all eyes are on them.”

(This story is not edited by Devdiscourse staff.

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