January 7, 2020 / 7:36 PM / 18 days ago

South Africa's Desmond Tutu and Al Gore urge end to fossil fuels

FILE PHOTO: Archbishop Desmond Tutu attends the unveiling ceremony for a statue of Nelson Mandela at City Hall in Cape Town, South Africa, July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and veteran of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, joined former U.S. vice president Al Gore on Tuesday to call on nations and companies to ditch fossil fuels to head off climate change.

Tutu, who is 88 and has been in hospital over the past few years owing to ill health, met Gore in Cape Town on Tuesday.

“Any organisation committed to operating responsibly in this new decade has a moral imperative to stop participating in financing the destruction of human civilization’s future,” the pair said in a statement.

“Corporations, governments and institutions that continue to invest in fossil fuels despite all the evidence of their effect on accelerating climate change are furthering environmental, economic and social injustice.”

Gore followed up his 2006 Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” with a 2017 sequel arguing that the struggle against climate change is a moral fight. He likened it to the civil rights movement in the United States or the fight for gay rights in recent decades.

His and Tutu’s declaration is likely produce mixed reactions within the South African government, which has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but sees coal as crucial for generating electricity.

Three quarters of South Africa’s energy comes from coal, making it one of the world’s top 20 emitters of carbon dioxide.

Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has vowed to keep opening more coal-fired power stations, even as South Africa also diversifies into renewables like solar and wind.

Reporting by Tim Cocks; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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