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Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai’s memory was honoured at an event on the sidelines of the 17th Convention of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) climate change talks in Durban on Wednesday.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined famed environmentalist Jane Goodall in paying tribute to Maathai and her work in conservation and fighting deforestation in Africa.
There was also a special message from former US president Bill Clinton.
Jeff Horowitz, of organisers Avoided Deforestation Partners, said Maathai’s untimely death in September was a tragic loss to the world.
He said she was meant to speak at the event in Durban, but now her legacy through the Green Belt Movement would see her dream of planting a billion trees worldwide being fulfilled.
Kenyan-born Maathai became the first African woman and environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
She was recognised for her struggle for human rights and environmental conservation through the Green Belt Movement, which has seen mainly women plant millions of trees in East Africa.
Ban said the world was already stretched, having now to support 7 billion people.
He said that the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative could play an important role in realising Maathai’s vision to save rainforests of the world.
Goodall said the world was facing a climate change crisis. While the world wanted to be “politically correct” on the issue of human population growth, going over the 7 billion mark was a huge challenge that needed to be faced.