UN climate boss cries, thanks churches

Durban - UN climate change boss Christiana Figueres on Sunday cried when she thanked religious organisations for their contribution to fighting climate change.

"We have heard your voice and your prayers. Don’t give up, continue with your prayers," she said with tears in her eyes.

An emotional Figueres was addressing scores of people from different religious organisations at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary said she would take the petition from the religious organisations to the of 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) which starts in Durban on Monday.

The petition read: "We call our neighbours to treat the earth with respect, resist disorder, live in peace with each other including embracing a legally binding climate change treaty."

Figueres said she appreciated the contribution made by religious organisations to fighting climate change and urged them not to give up.

"I believe that the conference we are going to have in Durban will be a step forward. Please don’t give up. This is going to be a long process."

Religious leaders said they were deeply touched by Figueres’ speech.

Something good

"Her speech showed that she is deeply touched that we are here. This makes us hope that something good might come out of the conference," said father Busangokwakhe Dlamini of the Traditional Anglican Church.

Ashwin Hemraju of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University said Figueres’ speech created an awakening and awareness on how important the environment is to people.

"Her speech showed that everyone has to do something to address climate change," he said.

Speaking during the gathering at the stadium, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the religious groups deserved a voice during the climate conference.

"That is why we are here today to take your petition. Your voice is important. Your petition will be taken seriously," she said.

Organisers of the event said they were disappointed the stadium was not full, but the conference proper only starts on Monday.

Over 11 800 delegates from 194 countries have been registered by home affairs to attend the conference. 


"We will have over 2 500 designated officers around the event precinct, and many others at the points of entries into the country, that is, airports, harbours and border gates," Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said, "We have reviewed our plan and we are ready. Police will be everywhere, ready for any eventuality." 

The hosting of the climate change conference in Durban was South Africa’s humble contribution to the world, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said.

Motlanthe was speaking after he completed a 3km walk with scores of people at the Durban beach front on Sunday.

The walk was aimed at showing support in finding solutions for climate change ahead of the start of 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) on Monday.

South Africa could lead the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) to ensure that climate change objectives remain on track, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

"South Africa is admired worldwide for the way we negotiated a peaceful transition to democracy 17 years ago, and we can thus play a leading role in the complex deliberations which will take place in Durban over the next two weeks," said parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko. 


Christiana Figueres, head of the UN climate secretariat, said the stakes for the negotiations are high, underscored by new scientific studies.

Under discussion was "nothing short of the most compelling energy, industrial, behavioural revolution that humanity has ever seen", she said.

Figueres said she hoped for a decision on extending emission reduction commitments under the Kyoto accord, which has been postponed for two years. Previous commitments expire next year.

High on the conference agenda is the management of a fund scaling up over the next eight years to $100bn annually to help poor countries cope with changing climate conditions.

Questions remain how the money will be governed and distributed, but more immediately, how those funds can be generated from new sources beyond established development channels from the West.

Poor countries want the industrial nations to commit to more cuts for a second Kyoto period, saying the protocol is the only legal instrument ever adopted to control carbon and other gases that trap the Earth's heat.

"If it were easy we would have done it years ago," Figueres said.

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