Buddhist Climate Change Statement Delivered to President Hollande

By Raymond Lam
Buddhistdoor Global | 2015-12-11 |
Venerable Rathana Thera in discussion with President Hollande. From Sean Hawkey, World Council of ChurchesVenerable Rathana Thera in discussion with President Hollande. From Sean Hawkey, World Council of Churches

At a meeting with faith leaders at the Elysée Palace on 10 December, French president François Hollande received the Buddhist Climate Change Statement, signed by 26 leading Buddhist figures on 29 October, from Venerable Rathana Thera of Sri Lanka. The meeting took place during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21), which began on 30 November and is scheduled to conclude on 11 December.

The Buddhist Climate Change Statement is a landmark document that emphasizes the concerns of Buddhist leaders across the world related to climate change, unlike previous Buddhist statements, which have been signed mostly by Buddhists based in the West. The statement brings together a broad coalition of senior leaders mainly from traditionally Buddhist countries, including names such as Venerable Lama Lobzang, general secretary of IBC, His Eminence Khamba Lama Gabju Demberel, supreme head of Mongolian Buddhists, His Eminence Jaesung Sunim, president of Korea’s Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh, and His Holiness the 17th Karmapa.

Key points of the statement include support for the climate activism of other religious traditions and an affirmation of the climate science pointing to devastating ecological and human catastrophe if climate change is left unchecked. It urges that global leaders muster the political will to “ensure that the global temperature increase remains below 1.5 degrees Celsius, relative to pre-industrial levels,” and to “increase finance above the US$100 billion agreed in Copenhagen in 2009, including through the Green Climate Fund (GCF), to help vulnerable developing countries prepare for climate impacts and transition towards a low-carbon economy.”

Earlier in Paris, on 9 December, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) convened an interfaith panel on climate ethics and action, which brought together diverse religious organizations including the International Buddhist Confederation, which was represented by Barbara Maas, secretary of IBC’s standing committee for environment and conservation.

According to the IUCN’s press release: “The leaders spoke extensively on the ethics of climate change, the need for human solidarity, courage and good faith. All of them expressed their dismay with the speed and attitude of the negotiations, and called on all people to work diligently to avert suffering and catastrophe. Much of the frontline climate relief work is carried out by religious institutions and they are witness to the famines, diseases, forced migrations and human misery brought about by current energy and economic models.”

President Hollande with faith leaders. From Sean Hawkey, World Council of ChurchesPresident Hollande with faith leaders. From Sean Hawkey, World Council of Churches

As COP21 concludes, hope is growing for a robust agreement that, according to Tony De Brum, foreign minister of the imperilled Marshall Islands in the Pacific, will cover some “very basic issues.” He repeated the demands reflected in other UN documents and religious petititions to the BBC: “Strong recognition of the below 1.5-degree temperature goal, a clear pathway for a low-carbon future, five-yearly updates and a strong package of support for developing countries, including delivery of $100bn per annum.”

However, the negotiations are complicated by a diverse spectrum of interests and factions, with the most notable divisions being between developed countries, island nations, and emerging economies. Negotiators are hoping this year will not suffer long stalemates like previous years as the US joins a “high ambition” alliance of over 100 countries, which, as the BBC reports, “will not be a formal negotiating block” but will “set out a common position on what the Paris agreement must achieve.”

The public draft of the agreement is due to be released on Saturday 12 December at 20.00 GMT at the earliest. French organizers hope a speedy conclusion, aided by a document no longer than 29 pages with straightforward and unambiguous wording, will be reached without the need for negotiations to extend beyond the official conclusion, as was the case in Copenhagen in 2009. It is hoped that by this weekend, religions around the world will see the fruits of their year-long efforts.

See more                                                                                          

Top Buddhists Sign Landmark Statement on Climate Change to Global Leaders (Buddhistdoor)
Faith leaders join forces for climate action (IUCN)
COP21: US joins 'high ambition coalition' for climate deal (BBC News)
Buddhistdoor View: Can Buddhists Take the Lead on Climate Change? (Buddhistdoor)

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