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Climate crisis

True solidarity with young people means ending the fossil fuel era

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Imploring the world to "listen to the incontrovertible science," Mary Robinson calls for urgent climate action to build a sustainable, just and inclusive future.

This message of support was delivered at the 10th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture on 7 October 2020. Entitled "Climate Justice Globally, Now and for the Future," it featured former UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and young climate activists Vanessa Nakate of Uganda and Ayakha Melithafa of South Africa.


Greetings, what a joy to take part in this tenth Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture!  

Let me begin by wishing my dear friends, Arch and Leah, happy birthdays close together. It was great to see Arch in such good form last January when we met, and this annual lecture is an important tribute to his work for peace, human rights and a sustainable world.

I remember Arch explaining the meaning of the African philosophy of ‘Ubuntu’ as being simply ‘I am because you are’ – the notion that my humanity is bound up in yours. This reminds me of a favoured Irish seanfhocail, an old word, ‘is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’, - it is in each other’s shadow that we flourish.

You can find similar expressions of solidarity all over the world.

Yet, though we speak words of shared humanity, we have failed to listen to one another, and we have failed to listen to Mother Earth. 

Nature is in great peril. She is speaking to us every day through burning forests, melting icecaps, rising sea-levels, floods and droughts. And those living on the frontlines of climate change, least responsible for the crisis, are losing lives and livelihoods.  

If we really listen to the young people, they are asking us not to listen to them at all!

They are asking us to listen to the incontrovertible science. They are asking us to take our words of shared humanity and turn them into concrete, urgent action if we are to ensure that we limit climate change to 1.5 degrees.

This intergenerational gathering of voices today should remind us all that we are inextricably bound to each other and should reaffirm the old wisdom of shared humanity.

We need to listen. We need to act.

If we truly stand in solidarity with our children and grandchildren, then we need to urgently end the fossil fuel era and start building a sustainable, just, inclusive world together.


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