Against a backdrop of deepening concern about the growing impact of global warming, the Climate Action Summit was held at the United Nations in September last year. Climate change represents a threat to all people living on Earth, both now and in future generations. Like nuclear weapons, it is a fundamental challenge on which the fate of humankind hinges.
Precisely because climate change is an issue that will leave no one untouched, it has the potential to catalyze heretofore unseen global solidarity and action. I would like to discuss the elements required to forge such a robust solidarity of action from the perspective of three commitments.
Leave no one behind
The first commitment must be that we never leave behind those struggling in difficult circumstances. When discussing the impacts of climate change, there is a tendency to focus on the scale of economic loss and other quantifiable indicators. It is important that we attend to the suffering of the many individuals that these macroeconomic indices might obscure, and make this central to our efforts to come together in search of solutions.
I believe that central to this challenge is the commitment never to abandon those who find themselves in dire circumstances. By acting on this commitment wherever we may be, we can transform the unprecedented crisis of climate change into the opportunity to redirect the currents of history.
The challenge of construction
The second commitment regards the importance of taking joint and constructive action rather than just communicating a shared sense of crisis. If we concentrate solely on the threats we face, we run the risk that people who feel they are not directly impacted will remain indifferent, and that even those who recognize the gravity of the threat may be overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness. We must therefore put forward a clear vision around which we can come together in solidarity.
Youth-led climate action
The third commitment concerns efforts to make the next ten years a decade of action by young people as an integral element of the recently launched UN Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. When young people’s will to transform reality merges with an indomitable optimism, the possibilities are limitless.
I propose that a Youth Climate Summit be held every year as a means to create a new trajectory for the UN, and that the UN work with civil society to promote a wide range of activities supporting youth to take the lead in combating climate change.
As a measure to solidify this trend, I propose that the Security Council follow the model of Security Council Resolution 2250 with a resolution encouraging the mainstreaming of youth participation in climate-related decision-making.
The world’s young people should be invited to participate as crucial partners in gatherings commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the UN’s founding. I am confident that as long as there is solidarity among youth, there is no impasse we cannot surmount.
Entry into force of the TPNW
Next, I would like to offer concrete proposals in four areas that will contribute to the creation of a sustainable global society where all can live with dignity and a sense of security.
The first of these pertains to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The TPNW needs to be ratified by fifty states to enter into force; thirty-five have ratified it so far. I would like to stress the need for the TPNW to enter into force within this year, which marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This would make 2020 the year that humankind finally began to leave the nuclear age behind us.
With the expiration of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which has been a cornerstone of nuclear disarmament between the United States and Russia, the nuclear arms race is once again heating up. It is urgent to use the entry into force of the TPNW to decisively counter this trend. The focus going forward must be to give substance to the norm established through the entry into force of the TPNW that prohibits the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.
I would further like to suggest that a people’s forum for a world without nuclear weapons be held in Hiroshima or Nagasaki to coincide with the first meeting of States Parties of the TPNW, bringing together hibakusha, municipalities and representatives of civil society. One of the core themes for discussion should be the right to life—with a particular focus on international human rights law.
Multilateral negotiations for nuclear disarmament
Second, I would like to call for two agreements—one regarding the start of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations and the other for deliberations on artificial intelligence (AI), other new technologies and nuclear weapons—to be included in the final outcome statement of the NPT Review Conference to be held in April and May.
Regarding the first of these, I believe it is crucial to first achieve the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the United States and Russia, and then to begin multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament. I propose that, on the basis of a five-year extension of New START, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China should begin negotiations on a new nuclear disarmament treaty beginning with dialogues on verification regimes.
I further hope that the NPT Review Conference will develop a deeper shared awareness of the threat posed by cyberattacks on nuclear weapons-related systems and the introduction of AI in the operation of such systems, and begin deliberations on the development of a prohibition regime.
Disaster risk reduction
My third proposal pertains to climate change and disaster risk reduction (DRR).
The necessary responses to climate change are not limited to the reduction of greenhouse gases; there is also an urgent need to take steps to limit the damage wrought, for example, by extreme weather events.
The next Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction is slated to take place in 2022, and I would like to suggest that this meeting be held in Japan. I hope that one of the main themes at the next Global Platform will be the role of local governments in the face of climate-fueled disasters, and also that the gathering be an opportunity for the building of partnerships among municipalities.
I feel it would be valuable for local municipalities in the coastal areas of Japan and other Asian nations, such as China and South Korea, to share experiences and best practices related to climate change and DRR, in this way generating synergies beneficial to Asia as a whole.
I hope the 2022 meeting will prioritize discussions on ways of creating a more inclusive society in which those who are most seriously impacted by climate-fueled disasters will not be left behind. Women play a crucial role in generating networks of mutual support within local communities, so reflecting their voices in every step along the process of shaping disaster management measures is key to building disaster-resilient communities.
Education for children and young people in crisis
The last of my four proposals relates to the strengthening of support for children and youth who are deprived of educational opportunities due to armed conflict or natural disasters.
Protecting the human rights and future development of children and youth who comprise the next generation is the cornerstone of creating a sustainable global society. It is unacceptable to allow children and young people living in countries afflicted by conflict or disaster to be left behind and become a “lost generation.”
I urge the international community to strengthen the financial foundation of the new global fund Education Cannot Wait in order to enhance the provision of education during emergencies and protracted crises. It is time to explore measures such as international solidarity levies and other innovative financing mechanisms to raise funds toward the achievement of the SDGs, including the establishment of an international solidarity levy dedicated to education.
As we continue to call for a society that serves the basic needs of education, the SGI is committed to further promoting empowerment of, by and for the people, as we address the climate crisis and other challenges with an expanding movement of global solidarity.