Representatives of Bharat Soka Gakkai (India), Soka Gakkai Office of Peace and Global Issues (Japan), SGI Office of UN Affairs (Switzerland), SGI United Kingdom and the Italian Buddhist Institute Soka Gakkai (IBISG) conducted and participated in various events held during the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from November 30 to December 12, 2023. This is the third year that SGI representatives have attended COP.

The SGI delegation 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. SGI participants also called for the perspectives of faith actors to be included in policy-making decisions.

The Foundation: Understanding COP

Recognizing that human activities, particularly emission of greenhouse gases, were contributing to changes in the Earth’s climate, world leaders mooted the idea of tackling the global challenges through a coordinated and collaborative effort over 30 years ago. Thereby, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted on May 9, 1992, and opened for signature during the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as an international treaty to combat climate change and its impacts. After ratification, it came into force on March 21, 1994. The treaty marked a historic moment in global environmental policy, reflecting a collective commitment to addressing climate change. Held every year since 1995 in different regions of the world, the Conference of the Parties (COP) provides a platform for nations to come together and discuss concrete actions to mitigate climate change.

Significance of SGI’s Participation in COP

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has written, “When youth stand up in solidarity, confident that they can determine the future, this fresh awareness and momentum will surely become the driving force toward a brighter future.”

As a grassroots organization dedicated to the cause of establishing peace in society, BSG and other SGI delegates participate in such conferences with the aim to be the voice of the young, the marginalized, the ones who are suffering the most, and to encourage world leaders toward taking swift action against climate change, so that no life is left behind. Soka Gakkai members around the world are taking action, convinced that even in the face of the insurmountable odds presented by the climate crisis, every individual’s contribution can lead to positive change.

Some of the sessions that were co-organised by Soka Gakkai representatives included:

  • Faith Matters in Achieving the Global Goal on Adaptation
  • Moving Faith Forward: Youth Leadership and Youth-Based Climate Advocacy
  • Dialogue and New Experiences for Climate Action and Care for the Planet
  • Local Anticipatory Action: Optimizing Community Capacity to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Disasters
  • Climate and Nature: Strengthening Advocacy and Action
  • Youth Rising in Solidarity for Environmental Defenders and Safeguarding Lives, Nature, and the Future
  • Rights Centered Climate and Biodiversity Action in Practice
  • Youth, Climate Anxiety, and the Role of Faith, and many other such sessions.

Key Highlights of SGI’s Participation at COP28

Lucy Plummer from SGI UK was involved in presenting the first-ever Youth Stocktake Report at COP28 along with other representatives from Youth-based-NGOs. She said, “Tokenism of youth is no longer acceptable. The stakes are higher than ever, and youth have important ideas, perspectives, and contributions to make.” The report recommended 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 raising climate awareness and taking actions.

Based on the unique experience of Japan in disaster risk reduction in the face of extreme weather events, Nobuyuki Asai of the SGI also brought recommendations on the effective dissemination of early warning systems to an official side event and a workshop at the Faith Pavilion.

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.

Many other individual BSG youth members were also present at COP28, representing their respective organizations, actively participating to spread the message of hope and climate justice for all.

Some of the major decisions taken at COP28 this year include:

  • Over 200 countries signed a deal that includes the need to start the transition away from fossil fuels.
  • Countries committed to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030.
  • The Loss and Damage Fund was operationalized.

However, despite these breakthroughs, the battle against climate change is still long and requires a much deeper commitment from all stakeholders, including ordinary citizens, governments, and corporations. The global stocktake report recognizes the science that indicates global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by 43 percent by 2030, compared to 2019 levels, to limit global warming to 1.5°C. But it notes that Parties are off track when it comes to meeting their Paris Agreement goals.

But despite all challenges, COP28 also showed that the world is capable of taking action on climate change, and it showed that there is still hope for a sustainable future.

COP28 UNFCCC Executive Secretary Mr Simon Stiell shared in his message to ordinary people across the world at the conclusion of COP28: “Every one of you is making a difference, your voices and determination will be more important than ever.”

For a detailed report on decisions taken at COP28, click here.