Photo credit: Kofi Annan Foundation - Photo: 2021

COP26: The Crucial Role of Religious Institutions in the Battle Against Climate Hazards

By Kurt Reynolds

LONDON (IDN) — As the longstanding battle against climate hazards escalates at the COP26 summit in Scotland, scheduled to conclude November 12, religious institutions are taking a significant role in a global campaign for a world free of pollution and help save humanity from an impending environmental disaster.

Last week, 72 religious institutions from six continents followed up on a recent appeal from Pope Francis urging global governments to address the “unprecedented ecological crisis” ahead of COP26—and divest from fossil fuel companies and invest in climate solutions.

The 72 institutions included mostly Catholics, Christians, Presbyterians, Greek Catholics, Methodists and adherents of the Church of England. But there were three Buddhist institutions among the 72: the Centre for Applied Buddhism, the Network of Buddhist Organizations and the Soka Gakkai International UK.

With 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.

At the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) summit, which began November 1, SGI said COP26 is a vital chance for genuine global solidarity of action to address the “Code Red for the Climate” that humanity faces.

As well as accelerating the reduction of greenhouse gases, it is crucial that the outcomes of COP26 leave no one behind, strengthen education, give increased leadership opportunities to young people and empower us all to sow seeds of hope and action.

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda remarked: “Every one of us, starting from where we are now, has the potential to become an architect of change for a sustainable global society, and . . . our every action is a seed of change, a seed of hope.”

The implications of the climate crisis are so profound and so complex that they can be daunting and overwhelming, leaving people feeling disempowered and hopeless. “This is why it is vital to take action at the local level in whatever way we can”.

And joining with others to take collective action dramatically increases our capacity and our confidence that positive change can be achieved, he added.

Beyond COP26, it is essential that individuals should:

  • Nurture “active hope.”
  • Link inner transformation, such as tackling greed and actively broadening the sphere of our compassion, to local action addressing root causes.
  • Link small actions to the bigger picture, such as growing one’s own food or planting trees—strengthening connections and building solidarity of action by joining local and online community associations.

As the unlimited potential of each individual is brought to blossom, each playing the unique role that only they can play, the circle of empowered individuals will expand and help set a more just and sustainable future course for human civilization and our planet.

Meanwhile, in a statement released in Glasgow, SGI said it is crucial that State Parties and negotiators:

  • Listen to the voices of those who are most impacted in the Global South and Indigenous Peoples.
  • Be willing to have courageous and open dialogue and hear uncomfortable truths.
  • Heed the calls for Climate Justice.
  • Match their words with bold and ambitious action to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
  • Lead by example and support calls for ambitious emission-cutting targets toward the goal of achieving real net-zero carbon emissions at the earliest opportunity and a just transition in society, with the goal of shifting all investments from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
  • Ensure income protection and training programs for those who will lose jobs through this transition away from fossil fuels.
  • Establish separate funding for loss and damage. An international loss and damage fund is essential.
  • Fully recognize human rights in all aspects of climate change policymaking, actively including human rights safeguards in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on market mechanisms.

SGI also said it is crucial that State Parties and negotiators:

  • Strengthen the six elements of Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE): (1) education, (2) training, (3) public awareness, (4) public participation, (5) public access to information, and (6) international cooperation on these issues.
  • Adopt a new ACE work programme that is rooted in human rights, providing a longer-term vision toward 2030 in line with the 2030 Agenda and a 5-year detailed action plan with guidelines for regular reporting and monitoring.
  • Integrate ACE across all the work streams under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including finance mechanisms, and establish new mechanisms to ensure better information sharing and inclusion among parties and non-party stakeholders, such as a task force, an ACE marketplace and a seed fund.

Meanwhile, addressing the summit on November 1, UN Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out that the six years since the Paris Climate Agreement have been the six hottest years on record.

In a stark warning, he said: “Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink. We face a stark choice: Either we stop it—or it stops us. It’s time to say: enough.“

“Enough of brutalizing biodiversity; Enough of killing ourselves with carbon; Enough of treating nature like a toilet; Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. “

“We are digging our own graves,” he said: ”Our planet is changing before our eyes — from the ocean depths to mountain tops; from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events.  Sea-level rise is double the rate it was 30 years ago. Oceans are hotter than ever—and getting warmer faster. Parts of the Amazon Rainforest now emit more carbon than they absorb.“

Recent climate action announcements might give the impression that we are on track to turn things around, but this is an illusion.

The last published report on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) showed that they would still condemn the world to a calamitous 2.7 degree increase. And even if the recent pledges were clear and credible—and there are serious questions about some of them—we are still careening towards climate catastrophe.

Even in the best-case scenario, temperatures will rise well above two degrees. So, as we open this much anticipated climate conference, we are still heading for climate disaster, he predicted.

Meanwhile, from a broader UN perspective, SGI said 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. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 November 2021]

Photo SGI-UK and Climate Change. Source: SGI-UK

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