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Dalai Lama Joins Nobel Laureates in Earth Day Appeal to Eliminate Fossil Fuels


His Holiness the Dalai Lama and 100 other prominent Nobel Prize laureates marked Earth Day last week with a joint letter that was published in the run-up to the US-hosted Leaders Summit on Climate on 22 April with a clear message for the world’s leading economies: take action now to “keep fossil fuels in the ground.” 

Calling for a decisive response to “the great moral issue of our time: the climate crisis and commensurate destruction of nature,” the letter signed by 101 Nobel peace, literature, medicine, physics, chemistry, and economic sciences laureates urged the 40 world leaders and governments attending the virtual summit on 22–23 April to adopt a new economic and developmental paradigm that would allow economies to diversify away from reliance on oil, coal and gas.

“Climate change is threatening hundreds of millions of lives, livelihoods across every continent, and is putting thousands of species at risk. The burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—is by far the major contributor to climate change.” the Nobel Prize winners stated. “We write today, on the eve of Earth Day 2021 and the Leaders’ Climate Summit, hosted by President Biden, to urge you to act now to avoid a climate catastrophe by stopping the expansion of oil, gas, and coal.” (The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty)

Alongside the Dalai Lama, the signatories included scientists, religious leaders, novelists, and former presidents, who called on the leaders of the world’s economies to adopt a “transformational plan” that would help dependent economies to diversify away from fossil fuels and offer global access to renewable energy. “The solution is clear,” the Nobel Prize laureates stated. “Fossil fuels must be kept in the ground.”

The letter continues: 

Leaders, not industry, hold the power and have the moral responsibility to take bold actions to address this crisis. We call on world leaders to work together in a spirit of international cooperation to:

• End new expansion of oil, gas and coal production in line with the best available science as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and United Nations Environment Program;

• Phase out existing production of oil, gas and coal in a manner that is fair and equitable, taking into account the responsibilities of countries for climate change and their respective dependency on fossil fuels, and capacity to transition;

• Invest in a transformational plan to ensure 100% access to renewable energy globally, support dependent economies to diversify away from fossil fuels, and enable people and communities across the globe to flourish through a global just transition.

Fossil fuels are the greatest contributor to climate change. Allowing the continued expansion of this industry is unconscionable. The fossil fuel system is global and requires a global solution – a solution the Leaders’ Climate Summit must work towards. And the first step is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. (The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty)

The administration of US President Biden hosted the two-day summit as a pivotal stepping stone for the US to rejoin the world in combating the climate crisis and in a push for accelerated global action on climate change. The summit was billed as a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) scheduled to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

Biden pledged that the US would cut its greenhouse gas emissions from 50–52 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and announced an “International Climate Finance Plan” of public and private sector investment goals to combat the climate crisis on a global basis. The US also announced a new partnership with India with a focus on pushing forward progress against climate change. Last week, the European Union said it would reduce emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050. Meanwhile, Canada vowed to cut emissions by 40–45 per cent by 2030, and Japan almost doubled its own previous target. While China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, made no definitive pronouncements, President Xi Jinping said the country would strictly control its coal dependence.

The letter from the Nobel laureates emphasizes:

The burning of fossil fuels is responsible for almost 80% of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution. In addition to being the leading source of emissions, there are local pollution, environmental and health costs associated with extracting, refining, transporting and burning fossil fuels. These costs are often paid by Indigenous peoples and marginalized communities. Egregious industry practices have led to human rights violations and a fossil fuel system that has left billions of people across the globe without sufficient energy to lead lives of dignity. (The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty)

The statement from the Nobel laureates’ came two days after United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned that humanity is “on the verge of the abyss.” According the State of the Global Climate report by World Meteorological Organization, the global average temperature in 2020 was about 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels, pushing the world “dangerously close” to the 1.5°C limit advocated by scientists to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. The world, Guterres warned, is “way off track” of the goal of reducing by 2030 global greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. (UN News)

In his personal public message to mark Earth Day, the Dalai Lama observed that environmental stewardship should be a part of everyone’s life. His Holiness offered an appeal to his “brothers and sisters throughout the world to look at both the challenges and the opportunities before us on this one blue planet that we share.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)

His Holiness continues:

I often joke that the moon and stars look beautiful, but if any of us tried to live on them, we would be miserable. This planet of ours is a delightful habitat. Its life is our life, its future our future. Indeed, the earth acts like a mother to us all. Like children, we are dependent on her. In the face of such global problems as the effect of global heating and depletion of the ozone layer, individual organizations and single nations are helpless. Unless we all work together, no solution can be found. Our mother earth is teaching us a lesson in universal responsibility. (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)

His Holiness the Dalai Lama planting a sapling. From
His Holiness the Dalai Lama planting a sapling. From

The Tibetan Spiritual leader cited the issue of water as an example of of the multiple mounting crises facing the world as a result of manmade climate change. He noted that critical shortages of potable water, sanitation, and hygienic conditions in many parts of the world continue to pose extreme risks to vulnerable communities—in particular, to mothers and young children. The scarcity of these fundamental resources, he emphasized, currently affects some two billion people globally.

Interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Ignorance of interdependence has wounded not just our natural environment, but our human society as well. Therefore, we human beings must develop a greater sense of the oneness of all humanity. Each of us must learn to work not only for his or her self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all mankind. In this connection, I am glad that President Joe Biden will be hosting a Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day this year, bringing together world leaders to discuss an issue that impacts all of us.

If our planet is to be sustained, environmental education and personal responsibility must grow and keep growing. Taking care of the environment should be an essential part of our daily lives. In my own case, my environmental awakening occurred only after I came into exile and encountered a world very different from the one I had known in Tibet. Only then did I realize how pure the Tibetan environment was and how modern material development has contributed to the degradation of life across the planet.

On this Earth Day let us all commit ourselves to doing our part to help make a positive difference to the environment of our only common home, this beautiful earth.

With my prayers,
Dalai Lama
 (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)

See more

Earth Day
The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty
Nobel Laureates’ Statement to Climate Summit World Leaders: Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground (The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty)
Message for Earth Day (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
World on the verge of climate ‘abyss’, as temperature rise continues: UN chief (UN News)
101 Nobel Laureates Urge World Leaders to ‘Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground’ (Common Dreams)
Dalai Lama, 100 Nobel laureates urge leaders to “keep fossil fuels in the ground” (Phayul)

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