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As Political Leadership Falters, SGI Proposes Annual UN Youth Climate Summits

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By Kurt Reynolds

LONDON (IDN) — As the COP26 climate summit in Scotland was winding down, the long-term pledges and bountiful promises made by world leaders seemed never-ending—stretching all the way to 2070.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a global roadmap to achieve a radical transformation of energy access and transition by 2030, while also contributing to net zero emissions by 2050. (P22) JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF | PORTUGUESE | SPANISH

The roadmap sets an aggressive timeline to ensure that 500 million more people gain access to electricity in a mere four years’ time, by 2025, and 1 billion more people gain access to clean cooking solutions.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a net-zero emissions target, pledging India will become carbon neutral by 2070.

And political leaders from Canada and Germany said, in a joint statement, they expect “significant progress towards the US $100 billion goal in 2022” while expressing confidence it would be met by 2023.

The leaders of the G20, comprising the world’s major industrial nations, pledged to “pursue efforts” to limit the global average temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Meanwhile, a coalition of banks, investors and insurers, that collectively control $130 trillion in assets, said it would commit to reaching net zero emissions across its investments by 2050.

The targeted dates were a peek into the future, perhaps an uncertain future judging by failed promises: 2023, 2025, 2030, 2050 and 2070.

But a lingering question remains: how many of these world leaders will be politically alive to either help implement these pledges or live long enough to see them realized.

The chances are slim—which creates a significant role for a younger generation to take the lead role in the fight against climate change.

The Tokyo-based Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a global, community-based Buddhist social movement promoting peace, culture and education, was one of the lead campaigners in Glasgow sponsoring not only several side events but also urging more and more young people take up the responsibility of adopting solutions to the current climate emergency.

How can young people overcome barriers of marginalisation and prejudice—and how best can they be supported in achieving their visions for climate-resilient futures and climate justice?

The hope, expressed by SGI, is how best to envision stronger inter-generational collaboration and how to overcome divisive narratives of youth and adults bringing generations together to address the climate crisis based on a shared concern for our planet.

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has proposed annual UN Youth Climate Summits leading to 2030 and has called for a Security Council Resolution mainstreaming youth participation in climate-related decision-making.

He rightly points out the world today is faced with a complex set of urgent crises that can only be described as unprecedented in the history of humankind.

In addition to the increasing incidence, every passing year, of extreme weather events that reflect the worsening problem of climate change, the onslaught of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to threaten social and economic stability throughout the world.

“I use the term ‘unprecedented’ here not merely in reference to the overlapping and interlocking layers of crisis we are experiencing today. Humanity has been confronted with various kinds of challenges throughout its long history, yet it has never faced a situation in which the entire world is impacted at once, gravely threatening the lives, livelihood and dignity of people in countries everywhere, throwing them into conditions in which they find themselves requiring urgent assistance.”, he said.

With 12 million members representing 192 countries and territories, the SGI’s social mission is to establish respect for the dignity of life, in all its forms, as the foundation of society. SGI is also an international NGO in consultative status with the UN.

SGI’s vision was reflected on November 8 in a statement made by former US President Barack Obama who helped clinch the 2015 Paris Climate agreement.

“The most important energy in this movement is coming from young people. And the reason is simple. They have more at stake in this than anybody else”, he said, speaking at the COP26 summit, amid a standing ovation.

“I am the father of two daughters in their early 20s. it’s not always easy being young today. For most of your lives, if you are in that generation, you’ve been bombarded about what the future would look like if we don’t do anything about climate change,” he declared.

In a statement released in Glasgow, SGI focused specifically on Youth Engagement and Leadership:

“Listening to the voices of young people is not optional; it is the only logical path forward if we are genuinely concerned about the future of our world. Youth have the clear-sightedness, the creativity and the boldness to lead us forward in ways that break down old stalemates and refresh our spirits. We must invest all our energy in empowering and supporting them, working together with them to find solutions to all the problems we face.”

At COP26, it is crucial, said SGI, that State Parties and negotiators:

  • Record, share and amplify youth voices, including especially the outcomes of the Pre-COP Youth4Climate Event and the 16th Conference of Youth (COY16).
  • Give real leadership opportunities related to climate issues to youth.

From a broader UN perspective, it is essential to:

  • Hold regional- and national-level youth summits focusing on climate and other post-COVID challenges that we must face together.
  • Establish a UN Youth Council that would regularize and sustain youth engagement and leadership.
  • For the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution encouraging the mainstreaming of youth participation in climate-related decision-making, similar to Security Council Resolution 2250, which urges member states to strengthen the role played by young people in peace and security issues.

The underlying theme of the panel discussions, sponsored jointly by Soka Gakkai International-UK (SGI-UK) and Centre for Applied Buddhism @ Websters Glasgow, was “Sowing Seeds of Hope: Action for Climate Justice” and “Multi-faith dialogue Climate Justice—the power of faith communities acting together.”

Among the discussions on the role of youth was one titled: “Beyond Rhetoric —Youth Leadership for Climate Action” where young climate activists from the Global South and North discussed the challenges and opportunities for youth on the frontlines of climate action and explore how to better facilitate intergenerational collaboration. [IDN-InDepthNews – 10 November 2021]

Photo: The SGI (Soka Gakkai International), SGI-UK and the Centre for Applied Buddhism (CfAB) co-organized youth forum in Glasgow. Photo Credit: SGI-UK





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