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Dalai Lama, 100 Nobel laureates urge leaders to “keep fossil fuels in the ground”

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Tawakkol Karman (L), Elfriede Jelinek (M) and Dalai Lama (R) among the signatories of the letter urging concrete steps to prevent climate change (Photo- Getty Images)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, Apr. 23: His Holiness the Dalai Lama and 100 prominent Nobel Prize laureates are signatories of the letter published ahead of the Leaders’ Climate Summit on Thursday, urging powerful countries to “keep fossil fuels in the ground”. “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,” stated the letter.

The appeal pointed out the stark distinction between the industrial powerhouses that benefit from the sale of fossil fuels and the marginal communities who are directly impacted by climate change. “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,” it further explained. The statement by the 101 Nobel laureates was published on the Earth Day, an annual global event demonstrating support for environment protection.

The Biden administration is currently holding its virtual climate summit where policy makers expect a pledge to cut carbon emissions around 50% by 2030. The letter acknowledged the US role in bringing about policy changes in the US, “Indeed, meeting the moment requires responses to the climate crisis that will define legacies. Qualifications for being on the right side of history are clear.”

The laureates outlined three steps the world leaders need to take; put an end to any expansion of oil, gas and coal production; to discontinue by phases the current production in a fair, equitable manner; and invest heavily in the global transition to renewable energy. Although the pandemic caused greenhouse gas emissions to drop slightly last year, reports suggested that the “bounce back is already happening”.

The authors wrote that the efforts to meet the terms of Paris Agreement and to reduce fossil fuels will be undermined if the global supply continues, “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.”

One of the signatories, the Dalai Lama has long been an international climate activist, who also launched the ‘Feedback Loops’ series in January with young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, and also launched his new book ‘Our Only Home’ in Nov 2020.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama planting a sapling (photo/OHHDL)

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said in his message for Earth Day on Thursday, “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.” Also known as the ‘third-pole’, the Tibetan plateau has seen an increase in temperature of approximately 0.3 degrees C every 10 years, which means that in 50 years, Tibet faces 1.3 degrees C increase, which is three times the global average.

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