International campaign urged to boycott mining companies and oil corporations

Clouds associated with a massive winter storm stretch across the US. Climate change means more extreme weather events. Photograph: NASA/Rex Features

Desmond Tutu, the Nobel peace prize winner and activist, has called for an international campaign to boycott mining companies, oil corporations and other businesses involved in the trade of fossil fuels. Writing exclusively in the Observer prior to this week’s UN climate summit in New York, Tutu says the same approach that was taken by the 1980s anti-apartheid campaign, of which he was a leader, should now be adopted in the battle to halt global warming.

“The most devastating effects of climate change – deadly storms, heat waves, droughts, rising food prices and the advent of climate refugees – are being visited on the world’s poor,” he states. “Those who have no involvement in creating the problem are the most affected, while those with the capacity to arrest the slide dither. Africans, who emit far less carbon than the people of any other continent, will pay the steepest price. It is a deep injustice.”

In his Observer article, Tutu urges world leaders including President Barack Obama to take a strong lead in setting up carbon emission curbs. However, he also proposes the launching of a populist campaign that would mirror the anti-apartheid campaigns, which argued that firms which conducted business with apartheid South Africa were aiding and abetting an immoral system. The businesses were targeted and their goods were boycotted.

Now Tutu wants to repeat this process for global warming. “Nobody should profit from the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the burning of fossil fuels,” he states. “We can boycott events, sports teams and media programming sponsored by fossil fuel companies; demand that their advertisements carry health warnings; organise car-free days and other platforms to build broader societal awareness.”