Ecological Integrity and Disaster Risk Reduction



Section seven of ten of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2016 peace proposal, “Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace.”

Next, I would like to offer some thoughts on current environmental issues and disaster risk reduction.

The first theme I would like to focus on is reducing emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held from November 30 to December 11 last year, adopted the Paris Agreement as the new international framework for efforts to tackle global warming.

The adoption of the Paris Agreement is groundbreaking in that 195 countries came together to commit themselves to take action under a shared framework. They have done so against the backdrop of growing concerns that humanity will face grave consequences unless the increase in the global average temperature is kept below 2˚C compared to preindustrial levels. Each government has set a target, and although these are not legally binding, they have agreed to implement policy measures for their achievement.

While combating global warming is a daunting challenge, the near-universal participation of the world’s governments should be recognized as the great strength of the Paris Agreement, and this should help give rise to the kind of cooperation by which each country makes proactive contributions with an eye to the global public good.

Asia is one region that has been facing an increasing incidence of extreme weather events. In light of this, I would like to call for cooperation among China, Japan and South Korea—which together account for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions—in pursuit of ambitious and groundbreaking initiatives.

In November last year, the Sixth Trilateral Summit among China, Japan and Korea was held in Seoul, after a lapse of three and a half years. Having urged in past proposals and elsewhere the need to overcome political tensions and reconvene these trilateral summits, I am particularly pleased by the declaration that cooperation has been completely restored and by the agreement to hold summits on a regular basis.

related article Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace All people have the right to live in happiness. The prime objective of our movement is to forge an expanding solidarity of ordinary citizens committed to protecting that right and, in this way, to rid the world of needless suffering. Our activities in support of the UN are a natural and necessary expression of this. It was work in the field of ecological integrity that provided the impetus and has remained at the heart of trilateral cooperation. The Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting (TEMM) has expressed the understanding that Northeast Asia is “one environmental community.” Annual meetings of the environment ministers have continued to contribute to cooperation on environmental issues even at times of heightened political tensions.

Hoping to encourage further collaboration on the environment, last year I called for the three countries to work toward a formal agreement to make the region a model of sustainability. If, in addition to such fields as reducing atmospheric pollution and tackling the problem of dust and sandstorms, there could be increased regional cooperation on combating climate change, this would be a crucial vehicle for the achievement of the targets set by each country in the Paris Agreement.

Concretely, there should be sharing of knowledge and best practices in the fields of energy efficiency, renewable energy and efforts to minimize the resource footprint of economic activities. Such synergies among the three countries could accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future.

This year, the Trilateral Summit is to be held in Japan. This will be accompanied by a Trilateral Youth Summit, which will provide an opportunity for young representatives to discuss cooperation for peace and ecological integrity in Northeast Asia. I urge the leaders of the three countries to adopt a China-Japan-Korea environmental pledge focused on regional cooperation to counter climate change toward 2030, the target year of the Paris Agreement.

I also hope that the Youth Summit will generate outcomes along the lines of establishing a platform for the sharing of creative ideas and best practices and supporting youth exchanges for cooperation on ambitious undertakings proposed by young people.

Next, in addition to such intergovernmental cooperation, I would like to propose that the world’s cities work together in paving the way toward promoting the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. Although the world’s cities only occupy 2 percent of the Earth’s land area, they account for 75 percent of carbon emissions and more than 60 percent of energy consumption. While this means that cities’ environmental footprint is disproportionately large, it also reflects the reality that if cities change, the world will change.

Certainly, the density of urban populations means that problems are concentrated in one place, as is the ecological burden. By the same token, however, this density can facilitate the effective implementation of energy efficiency measures and the adoption of renewable energy sources in the shift toward a low-carbon society.

Launched in 2014 at the United Nations Climate Summit, the Compact of Mayors, which now encompasses more than 400 cities worldwide, enables each city to publicly commit to their mitigation plans and targets.

related article Soka Gakkai in America: Focused on Servant Leadership and Dialogic Teaching Soka Gakkai in America: Focused on Servant Leadership and Dialogic Teaching by  William Aiken,  director of public affairs, SGI-USA Reflecting upon the SGI-USA community, William Aiken provides a Buddhist perspective on the future trends for religion in the US. As cities initiate action and efforts begin to bear fruit, local citizens will be able to gain a palpable sense of achievement. This will provide conviction and pride that will further inspire individuals to take part in the endeavor, building greater momentum toward a sustainable society. I believe that cities can generate ripple effects that can propel each nation’s efforts to meet their Paris Agreement targets.

Prior to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) held in 2012—which initiated the process of concrete deliberation toward the SDGs—I expressed my hope that the post-2015 goals would be such that people would take them up as a personal commitment and be inspired to work together toward their achievement.

One of the goals listed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is sustainable cities. Because the accumulation of efforts undertaken in one’s immediate surroundings can generate important positive impacts on the global environment, this theme of sustainable cities can demonstrate to people that their efforts are important and thus stimulate a sense of accomplishment and pride.

The United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) is slated to be held in Quito, Ecuador, in October this year. At this meeting, in addition to representatives of national governments, people speaking for subnational entities will be able to express their views and share best practices, building global solidarity for the goal of sustainable cities.

Environmental activist Wangari Maathai recalled her experience at the 1976 Habitat I Conference held in Vancouver, Canada, as her inspiration for founding the Green Belt Movement in Kenya:

“The beautiful surroundings of British Columbia and the engaging with people who shared my evolving concern for the environment were just the tonic I needed. . . I returned to Kenya reenergized and determined to make my idea work.”

Regardless of the country or community where we reside, I believe people share the desire to leave behind a better environment for our children and grandchildren.

Earlier I called for cooperation on the national level between China, Japan and Korea, and here I would like to propose that a forum for tripartite environmental cooperation be held in conjunction with Habitat III with the participation of representatives of subnational governments and NGOs active in the environmental field.

related article Peace Proposal 2016<br>Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace Peace Proposal 2016
Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace
by  Daisaku Ikeda, President, Soka Gakkai International In his annual peace proposal released on January 26, 2016, titled “Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace,” Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist association, calls for intensified efforts to respond to the needs of humanity’s most vulnerable, including those displaced by conflict in Syria and elsewhere or by natural disasters.
As a side event at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai in March last year, the SGI sponsored a symposium with representatives of civil society organizations involved in DRR from China, Japan and Korea. Chen Feng, Deputy Secretary-General of the intergovernmental Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat which supported the symposium, stated that, as close neighbors, a disaster in one country will also cause pain to the other two, and that for this reason cooperation in DRR must always be a priority. The same can be said of environmental issues.

At present, more than 600 localities in China, Japan and Korea have established sister-city relationships. Trilateral efforts can help build an invaluable heritage of friendship for the future by developing through these sister-city relationships a deepened understanding that the cities, towns and villages we live in are all part of a shared environmental community.

The second theme I would like to discuss is Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR). Around 800 million people in the world today are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Moreover, approximately 30 percent of the world’s soil resources, the foundation for global food production, are experiencing some degree of degradation.

Healthy soil plays an important role in the carbon cycle, as well as the storing and filtering of water, thus making it a crucial component in the ecosystem. But for all too long it has not been accorded the attention it deserves. Once degraded, soil does not recover easily—it can take more than a hundred years for even one centimeter to form.

Although the pace of net global deforestation has slowed, 13 million hectares of forest are still being lost each year, causing grave concern about such environmental impacts as loss of biodiversity.

One of the SDGs articulates the importance of halting and reversing land degradation and sustainable management of the world’s forests. These are urgent challenges both in terms of protecting the ecological integrity of our planet and enhancing carbon sequestration.

In recent years, the role that efforts to protect the environment can play in disaster risk reduction has attracted growing attention. Awareness of this was greatly heightened by the experience of the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004. Studies found that coastal villages where mangrove forests served as bioshields endured significantly less damage than coastal areas where this protection was absent.

Examples of Eco-DRR projects include restorative planting to stabilize sand dunes, the use of wetlands to mitigate storm surges and the greenification of cities in stormwater management.

Of particular note is the value that arises from the active and sustained engagement of the people living in a community. In regions afflicted by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in northeastern Japan, children are among those actively involved in efforts to plant saplings to revive the protective coastal forests. Such activities deepen a shared sense of the importance of the local ecosystem and invite an expanding cadre of participants to imagine how the trees they are planting now might protect the lives of people in the future.

When those involved pass through this place of their labors in future years, they will look upon that landscape with an even more poignant sense of its value. People will feel the essential yet ineffable importance of local ecosystems to their daily lives as well as the invaluable nature of their own engagement in supporting that environment and disaster risk reduction efforts within it. This awareness will grow along with the trees they have planted, setting down the deep roots of a truly resilient community. In this way, people’s efforts to protect their local ecology have the direct effect of nurturing a hopeful future for that community.

Recently, the Global Action Programme for ESD has been launched as a follow-up to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD). The engagement of young people is listed as one of the program’s priorities, and in this context I would like to wholeheartedly encourage young people and children everywhere to participate actively in Eco-DRR, such as tree-planting campaigns.

The Sendai Framework adopted at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction last March stresses that DRR “requires an all-of-society engagement and partnership” and identifies children and youth as “agents of change” who should be empowered to contribute to DRR.

Since the SGI together with other NGOs proposed the establishment of the DESD in 2002, we have shown the awareness-raising exhibitions “Seeds of Change: The Earth Charter and human potential” and “Seeds of Hope: Visions of sustainability, steps toward change” around the world. Over the years, large numbers of students, from elementary to high school, have visited the exhibitions, making them an effective tool for environmental education.

One of the reasons that the SGI has placed great importance on ESD is to encourage learning about the indissoluble links between human beings and their environment and to promote a groundswell of people of all ages who can muster the “courage of application” that Soka Gakkai founding president Makiguchi cited as a crucial goal of education. We hope that this will encourage them to take determined action in their respective communities. I believe that such sustained activities at the local level can pave a secure and effective path toward protecting the global environment.

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