Dalai Lama Heads Call for International Action on Climate Change
As world leaders prepare to gather in Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) from 30 November to 11 December, His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Tuesday issued a video message to the world, heading a call by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)—the Tibetan government in exile—for international action on climate change under an initiative entitled “Tibet Climate Action for the Roof of the World.”
World leaders are looking for COP 21 to provide an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol after unwillingness shown by the United States and China to reach any sort of compromise in 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen resulted in a dispiriting lack of progress in global action.
“This blue planet is our only home and Tibet is its roof,” said the Dalai Lama, appealing alongside a parallel statement from the CTA to world leaders to recognize the imminent threat posed by climate change and the need for immediate action to mitigate the effects of human activity on the global environment. Both messages emphasized the need to protect the delicate ecology of the Tibetan Plateau as a key part of the planet’s ecosystem that is essential to the lives of billions of people.
“The Tibetan Plateau is critical to the planet’s environmental health,” said Lobsang Sangay, head of the Central Tibetan Administration. “A global environmental catastrophe can be avoided, but we must act now to ensure that the Tibetan Plateau and the world’s fragile ecosystem are protected.” (Central Tibetan Administration)
The CTA statement emphasized that, as the home to 46,000 glaciers, the Tibetan Plateau is the largest source of accessible fresh water on the planet and the source of Asia’s six largest rivers, which supply one-third of the world’s population. However, the statement warned that, over the past 50 years, temperatures on the Tibetan Plateau have risen by 1.3 degrees Celsius—three times the global average—causing glaciers to retreat, permafrost to deteriorate, and grasslands to degrade, accompanied by increasing desertification. More than two-thirds of the glaciers could be gone by 2050, it said.
The Dalai Lama’s words were no less ominous. “Some experts say Tibetan Plateau conditions may also affect some other parts of the world . . . that is something very very important that I want to share, to tell you. This is not a political matter, not a religious matter, but this is ultimately [about] the survival of humanity—a question of a healthy world, a healthy planet,” he said.
His Holiness emphasized that the scale of the issue was global and would require concerted action, noting that due to its altitude and the nature of its climate the Tibetan Plateau is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. “Some Chinese environmentalists, they describe the Tibetan Plateau as the third pole because the effect on global warming from the Tibetan Plateau is as much as [from the] South Pole, North Pole,” he said. “So these are not political statements, but the expressions of experts—scientists. Therefore, you see, this is not only a concern for Tibetan people, but this is a concern for billions of human lives.”
The Dalai Lama urged young people to take up the mantle of responsibility from older generations by taking a more active role in protecting the planet’s future.
“This is not a question of one nation or two nations. This is a question of humanity; the whole world. . . . If this planet, you see, due to global warming or some other sort of environmental problems, cannot . . . live, then there’s no other planet where we may move to,” said His Holiness. “Our world is our only home.”
COP21: His Holiness the Dalai Lama's message (YouTube)
Central Tibetan Administration to World Leaders: Put Tibet at the Centre of Climate Change Talks (Central Tibetan Administration)
Dalai Lama says climate change destroying Tibet’s “roof of the world” (Reuters)