SA activist takes charge at Greenpeace


South African human rights activist Kumi Naidoo has been elected executive director of Greenpeace International, the first African to take the helm of since the group was founded in 1971.

Naidoo, a critic of US President Barack Obama’s lack of urgency on climate change, says he will prioritise how climate change has impacted the world’s poorest, Radio France International reports.

“Our challenge is to maximise pressure over the next two weeks” leading up to the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit from December 7-18, Naidoo tells RFI.

Naidoo says that Greenpeace is planning a major demonstration on 12 December in order to call attention to world leaders to act now.

“I think political leaders in democratic countries need to see that failure to act with the courage that the moment calls for will be a electoral liability,” he says.

“Hopefully they will be forced to actually act more as leaders rather than simply as politicians,” he adds.

Naidoo decries Obama’s lack of urgency, especially regarding the rumours the US president may not attend the conference. “Some political leaders are taking a view that if Obama doesn’t come, what is the point of going because the US has 5% of the world’s population, and 22% of its emissions, and if they are not there, then what kind of deal can we have?” he says.

The same kind of mobilisation that the world saw when trillions of dollars were poured into banks by western countries must be shown at the Climate Change summit, he says.

Western countries need to “mobilize resources for developing countries to help them with climate adaptation so that we can bail out the climate and bail out the poor,” he says.

One of Naidoo’s platforms as the new executive director is to call attention to food security and climate change and how this affects the world’s poorest. Greenpeace currently has a programme in place to help promote sustainable agriculture “and not play around with genetically-modified food to expedite production,” he says.

“We need to recognise in Africa, for example, the majority of farmers are women who are small-scale farmers who have virtually no support financially or otherwise to succeed,” he says.

“If we were to invest in women farmers in Africa and not mass-scale agriculture necessarily, but to suport balanced agriculture and de-centralised energy and have a more de-centralised approach, that would actually deliver quicker solutions and provide a lifeline” to those who are now unable to grow food for themselves, he adds.