The Elders

Press release

The Elders enlist their grandchildren’s help on climate change

Ahead of the historic climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, The Elders urge all heads of government to attend the talks in Copenhagen and reach an ambitious, fair, effective and binding agreement to prevent climate catastrophe.

PHOTO ADVISORY: High resolution photos of the Elders and grandchildren in Istanbul are available. Please contact photo agencies or view low-res images here. See description below.

As the world prepares for historic climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, The Elders, a group of eminent global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela, have issued an urgent message to world leaders: take part in the talks and deliver a fair, ambitious, binding and effective deal.

The Elders asked thirteen of their grandchildren to join them to emphasise that that the world must act now to prevent climate catastrophe in the future. Urgent help is also needed for millions of families who are already suffering hunger and hardship, and to reduce the risk of conflict due to the effects of extreme weather patterns linked to climate change.

Elders’ Chair, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: "No one is immune – rich, poor, developed and developing countries. We are all in this together. I will probably be spared the worst effects of climate change but I worry for our children’s future and for the millions of people who are already being impoverished and displaced."

In December in Copenhagen, government leaders will decide on measures that could stop climate change, and ultimately reverse its effects.  Next week negotiators meet in Barcelona for the last official session before the UN meeting in Copenhagen.

The Elders urge all heads of government to attend the talks in Copenhagen and reach an ambitious, fair, effective and binding agreement in which they:

  • Agree to a 2 degree Celsius target as the outer limit of global temperature increase that humankind can tolerate.
  • Agree that global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by at least 50 percent by 2050 to stop further global warming.
  • Agree that the G8 and other industrialized countries must accept their historic responsibility for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere, and commit to emissions cuts of 25-40 percent by 2020, and at least 80 percent by 2050, relative to levels in 1990, backed by verifiable national action plans.
  • Agree that the big emerging economies reduce their emissions through national action plans that are measurable and verifiable.
  • Agree that industrialised countries will provide the majority of financial support of at least €100 billion a year to help developing countries – particularly the poorest and most vulnerable - to shift to low carbon prosperity and adapt to the damaging effects of climate change that are already taking place.
  • Agree to accelerated transfer of clean energy technologies to developing countries on preferential terms, to enable their economies to grow in a more sustainable way.

Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change said: "Coming generations expect that today's leaders will see the opportunities and take responsibility for a low-emission, sustainable world. We urge all leaders to take action to safeguard our common future; one that requires a new level of shared commitment, based on common, but differentiated responsibilities."

Jimmy Carter, former US President said: "Averting climate change is possible, and is much cheaper than living with the consequences. But no meaningful agreement can be reached without the United States. I urge all Americans to think carefully about the fact that our own young people face a harsh and perilous future if nothing is done to stop climate change."

Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland and 2008 Nobel Peace Laureate said: "Compromise has its place, but climate change is different. The laws of physics and chemistry do not wait, nor will they compromise. Either Copenhagen sets us on a course of radically reduced greenhouse gas emissions or the future of humanity is in jeopardy."

Ela R Bhatt, Ghandian and founder of India’s million-member Self-Employed Women’s Association said: "Our current industrial mode of production is clearly not sustainable. It is out of balance and unjust towards people and towards Nature. Let us practise a more holistic way of living. Diversity is essential to inclusion. Let us embrace the green, the local, the communal, the sustainable – because our survival depends on it."

Former UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said: "We must invest now in mitigation to assist those who are already losing their land to floods, rising seas or droughts, and to help poor countries adapt to climate change. The benefits of investing now will far outweigh the cost to future generations of dealing with climate catastrophe."

Mary Robinson, former Irish President said: "I have been meeting and listening to small farmers and indigenous leaders from the poorest countries, many of whom are women – and it is clear that desertification, droughts and increased cyclones are causing huge suffering already. The impact of climate change is not only an ethical and moral issue; it is an issue of justice. Industrialized nations must meet their historic responsibility."

Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, said:  "Climate change is not an abstract or future threat. It is happening now, with damaging consequences. Failure to take meaningful action in Copenhagen will not only fail those who are suffering today, but will also jeopardize the wellbeing of our planet and future generations. Leadership has never been more needed than it will be in the following days and weeks... we must help our political leaders have the vision and courage to set aside national and sectional interests to confront the climate challenge."

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil, said: "Developed nations and fast growing economies like Brazil, China and India must share in the common effort to put the future of the planet before short term profits."

Graça Machel, international activist on women’s and children’s rights, said: "First of all we urge all leaders to attend the talks – this is a critical international turning point and its outcomes affect us all. And we urge all leaders to leave behind 'politics as usual' with its deals and delaying tactics. Leaders must lead, and do all that is necessary to preserve a liveable and sustainable planet by reaching an ambitious, fair and effective agreement."

Above all, The Elders urge leaders not to despair; there are opportunities as well as challenges in tackling climate change.

Desmond Tutu said: "We have lived through periods when change seemed impossible. But our greatest leaders never give up hope. As you prepare for Copenhagen, look into our grandchildren’s eyes, and into your own children’s eyes, and remember: without a liveable planet, nothing else will matter."

The Elders were joined in Istanbul by:
Arjun Potter (19) Maya Potter (17) Somnath Bhatt (14) Rameshwar Bhatt (8) – Ela Bhatt
Balthazar Brahimi (5) Basile Brahimi (3) - Lakhdar Brahimi
Thomas Brundtland (12) Frida Brundtland Edrén (7) - Gro Brundtland
 Jeremy Carter (22) Hugo Wentzel (10)- Jimmy Carter
Mungi Ngomane (17) Nyaniso Burris (13) Onalenna Burris (3) - Desmond Tutu


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