Engaged Buddhism: The Soka Gakkai International Calls for Youth Engagement in Climate Policy at COP28
The socially engaged Japanese Nichiren Buddhist organization the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), which participated in the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which ran from 30 November–12 December in Dubai, has called for the active inclusion of global youth in policy processes surrounding the planetary climate crisis.
In a statement dated 24 December and shared with BDG, the SGI also urged “greater representation of youth from conflict-affected areas, Indigenous youth, and youth with disabilities, adding: “As Buddhists, SGI participants also called for the perspectives of faith actors to be included in policy-making decisions.”
COP28 saw the launch of the first-ever Youth Stocktake of UNFCCC Processes by YOUNGO, the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC, which raised a call to acknowledge the importance of intergenerational dialogue on climate-related affairs. YOUNGO also recommended further sustainable and long-term strategies to enable young people to participate in the development of climate policies, calling for funding for youth climate innovations and training opportunities for States Parties in effective youth inclusion practices.
“Tokenism of youth is no longer acceptable,” SGI-UK representative Lucy Plummer observed. Plummer, who is also a member of YOUNGO, continued: “The stakes are higher than ever, and youth have important ideas, perspectives and contributions to make.”
The Dubai conference also featured the first Faith Pavilion at a COP gathering, which offered an open venue where statements from faith leaders could be shared, and an opportunity for interfaith dialogue and in-depth discussions on the perspectives of faith-based organizations and their grassroots partners.
“As one of the earliest signatories to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, the SGI co-organized an event at the Faith Pavilion promoting the idea of its adoption,” the SGI stated. “During COP28, stronger momentum was generated, represented by the endorsement of the Government of Colombia.”
The Italian Buddhist Institute Soka Gakkai (IBISG) held a panel discussion at the Faith Pavilion, which included three winners of the Youth4Climate Call for Solutions 2023 from Benin, Mali, and Tunisia. A global initiative led by the Italian government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Italy, it received partial support from the IBISG via Italy’s “eight per thousand” law, which directs 0.8 per cent of a taxpayer’s income tax to their chosen religious organization.
“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,” SGI Office for UN Affairs representative Alexandra Goossens-Ishii, commented as the climate forum wound down. “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.’”
Founded in 1930, the Soka Gakkai (the Value Creation Society) is a Japanese Buddhist movement based on the teachings of the 13th century Buddhist priest Nichiren (1222–82). Nichiren taught devotion to the Lotus Sutra, believed to contain the teachings of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, toward the end of his life, as the exclusive means to attain enlightenment. Soka Gakkai centers its teachings on the Lotus Sutra, with recitation of the mantra “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (“Glory to the Dharma of the Lotus Sutra”) as its main devotional practice.
The Soka Gakkai International, founded by Daisaku Ikeda in 1975, is an NGO with consultative status to UN ECOSOC. As a global community-based Buddhist organization that promotes peace, culture, and education based on respect for the dignity of life, the Soka Gakkai is involved in peace activism, education, and politics, with members in 192 countries and territories around the world.
Some of the Soka Gakkai’s high-profile members include actor Orlando Bloom, jazz musician Herbie Hancock, and singer Tina Turner.
Nature is not something for human beings to use and exploit as they see fit, solely for their own interests. Both nature and humanity are and whole of the life of the universe. Nature and humanity are one. . . . To destroy the natural world is to destroy human life. — Daisaku Ikeda
Source: buddhistdoor.net/Craig C Lewis