Unnecessary flights killing the poor: Tutu

LONDON (Reuters) - Businessmen who take flights rather than use video conferencing are adding to global warming that is condemning millions of the world’s poorest people to death, according to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks to supporters at a pro-Tibet rally in San Francisco, California April 8, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town said developed countries had caused global warming and must therefore take the lead in slashing emissions of climate changing carbon gases.

“It is the countries which are the least responsible for causing climate change that are paying the heaviest price,” he said in a video message to a meeting of the World Development Movement lobby group on Thursday night.

“Do not fly in the face of the poor by allowing the emissions produced by endless and unnecessary business flights to keep growing.”

Scientists say average global temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century due to burning fossil fuels for power and transport. They note that emissions at altitude are many times worse than at ground level.

These rising temperatures will cause droughts, floods, crop failures and water shortages, putting millions of lives at risk.

Tutu, a Nobel Peace laureate and tireless campaigner for global justice and equality, said scientists predicted that up to 185 million Africans would die this century as a direct result of climate change.

“Climate change is for real. As I speak, famine is increasing, flooding is increasing, as is disease and insecurity globally because of water scarcity,” he said.

“As an African I urgently call on ordinary people in rich countries to act as global citizens, not as isolated consumers. We must listen to our consciences, and not to governments who speak only about economic markets.

“These markets will cease to exist if climate change is allowed to develop to climate chaos,” he added.

Tutu said the developed nations must pass laws forcing them to cut their carbon emissions by at least 80 percent.

“In South Africa we confirmed that if we act on the side of justice we have the power to turn tides,” Tutu said.

“I urge you ... to work together with campaigners in the global South and call for strong climate change laws in your own countries in the North, as well as internationally.”

The Group of Eight rich nations agreed last week -- against strong resistance from the United States -- that global emissions should be cut by 50 percent by 2050 but they did little else.

British economist Nicholas Stern, whose seminal report in 2006 spelled out the global costs of climate change and galvanized the international agenda, said recently the developed world had to cut emissions by 80 percent by mid-century.

He said the current world annual average was seven tonnes of carbon per head -- ranging from 20 tonnes in the United States to half that in South Africa and almost zero in Chad -- and that had to be cut to an average of just two tonnes per head.

Editing by Philippa Fletcher