On December 12, the representatives of 195 countries adopted a historic agreement designed to meet the challenge of global climate change at COP21, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Paris. Propelled by the urgency of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, participants reached a consensus on a post-2020 framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
The consequences of global warming are not limited to glacial retreat and loss of biodiversity, but include an increased likelihood of extreme weather events, which may impact agricultural production and provoke food supply crisis.
The vulnerable will be the most severely affected, with the impact on children being particularly serious. Unicef has warned that the number of children directly affected by climate change-related disasters could reach 200 million in the coming decade.
At the Paris conference, leaders of Pacific island nations issued impassioned calls for action to meet the existential threat they face in the form of rising sea levels. In the end, a long-term global goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels was concluded.
Since the greenhouse gas reduction targets adopted in the Paris agreement are not legally binding, the path to significant cuts may be difficult. But I am convinced that shared concern and empathetic openness to the suffering of others holds the key to building genuine international cooperation focused on the common interest of humanity.
Analysis shows that the targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts established under the Kyoto Protocol have already been surpassed. All stakeholders must now come together to combat global warming.
The civil society can contribute in not only combating global warming, but also in creating a sustainable global society.
At COP21, December 3 was designated Young and Future Generations Day. Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN secretary-general’s envoy on youth, pointed out that a majority of recent climate change rallies around the world were organised by young people.
Last year, the UN adopted a Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). One of the priority areas it identified was empowering and mobilising youth, and expanding their engagement with ESD.
I believe that empowerment of the youth is indispensable to our efforts to reverse or even halt global warming, an effort that has begun and will continue far into the future.
Daisaku Ikeda is president of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist association
The views expressed are personal