Dalai Lama and other Nobel Prize winners pressure leaders to stop fossil fuel expansion

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This image, taken in 2016, shows the Dalai Lama at an event in Strasbourg, France.
Kristy Sparow | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The Dalai Lama and 100 other Nobel laureates have called on world leaders to stop the expansion of oil, gas and coal, urging them to act now in order to prevent “a climate catastrophe.”

Their open letter, published a day before President Joe Biden hosts a virtual summit on the climate, describes the burning of fossil fuels as “by far the major contributor to climate change.”

The document, which was coordinated by the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, goes on to reference the importance of both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and 2015’s Paris Agreement. The accord aims to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and, ideally, restrict any rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

Wednesday’s letter says failure to meet the 1.5 degrees target would risk “pushing the world towards catastrophic global warming.” It also adds that the Paris Agreement makes no mention of oil, gas or coal.

Citing a report from the United Nations Environment Programme, the letter highlights the huge amount of work required to ensure targets are met, stating that “120% more coal, oil, and gas will be produced by 2030 than is consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.”

Allowing the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry “is unconscionable,” it concludes. “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.”

Alongside the Dalai Lama, signatories to the letter include Jody Williams, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines’ founding coordinator; the economist Christopher Pissarides; Shirin Ebadi, the first female judge in Iran; and former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Other names include Liberian peace activist and advocate for women’s rights, Leymah Gbowee, and Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian playwright, novelist and poet.

The letter represents the latest intervention by high-profile figures in the debate surrounding climate change and the environment.

Earlier this month, Britain’s Prince William underscored the importance of investing in nature to tackle climate change and protect our planet.

In comments made during a discussion at the virtual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group, the Duke of Cambridge spoke about what he described as the “intrinsic link between nature and climate change.”

“We must invest in nature through reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and supporting healthy oceans, because doing so is one of the most cost effective and impactful ways of tackling climate change,” he went on to add.

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