Representatives of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) who participated in the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, joined global youth in their call for meaningful inclusion in climate policy processes and for greater representation of youth from conflict-affected areas, Indigenous youth and youth with disabilities. As Buddhists, SGI participants also called for the perspectives of faith actors to be included in policy-making decisions.
“Tokenism of youth is no longer acceptable,” says Lucy Plummer of SGI-UK, who is a member of YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC. “The stakes are higher than ever, and youth have important ideas, perspectives and contributions to make.” At the launch of the first-ever Youth Stocktake of UNFCCC Processes by YOUNGO at this year’s COP, recommendations included more sustainable and long-term strategies for youth to contribute to the development of climate policies, funding for youth climate innovations, and training opportunities for States Parties in effective youth inclusion practices. The importance of intergenerational dialogue was also underscored.
For the first time at a COP, a Faith Pavilion was inaugurated and provided an important venue for statements by faith leaders, interfaith dialogue and in-depth discussions on the unique voices and views of faith-based organizations (FBOs) and their grassroots partners. The events highlighted the impactful role and mobilizing reach of FBOs in climate awareness raising and action and the need for governments to listen to faith actors.
As one of the earliest signatories to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, SGI co-organized an event at the Faith Pavilion promoting the idea of its adoption. During COP28, stronger momentum was generated, represented by the endorsement of the Government of Colombia.
Based on the unique experience of Japan in disaster risk reduction in the face of extreme weather events, Nobuyuki Asai of SGI also brought recommendations on the effective dissemination of early warning systems to an official side event and a workshop at the Faith Pavilion. He comments, “We need to share lessons learned about community-based approaches—which are not only hi-tech— that ensure protection of the vulnerable, including the elderly.”
The Italian Buddhist Institute Soka Gakkai (IBISG) also held a panel discussion featuring three young winners of the Youth4Climate Call for Solutions 2023 from Benin, Mali and Tunisia. This global initiative, led by the Italian government and UNDP Italy, received partial support from IBISG via the “Eight per thousand” Italian law, which allocates 0.8% of a taxpayer’s income tax to their chosen religious organization. The executive director of the International Tropical Timber Organization also spoke at the event.
As COP28 concluded, Alexandra Goossens-Ishii of the SGI Office for UN Affairs commented: “COP28 delivered on several positive steps, including recognizing the need to transition away from fossil fuels, the commitment to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030, as well as the operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund. However, as the outcome of COP28 is a compromise to reach the consensus of all member states, it is weaker than what many would have liked, including Small Island Developing States, in terms of failing to commit to a full fossil fuels phase-out. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell concluded with a message to ordinary people everywhere: ‘Every one of you is making a difference, your voices and determination will be more important than ever.’”
This is the third year that SGI representatives have attended COP, consistently promoting rights-based approaches, the crucial role of nature, and highlighting positive case studies of individual action at the grassroots. The SGI is committed to continue working in solidarity with other faith-based and civil society organizations to amplify the voices of people, especially youth, in calling for concrete decisions and change.
The Soka Gakkai is a global, community-based Buddhist organization that promotes peace, culture and education centered on respect for the dignity of life. The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is an NGO in consultative status with UN ECOSOC since 1983.
Alexandra Masako Goossens-Ishii
SGI Office for UN Affairs, Geneva
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