Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the closing of High-Level Political Dialogue of the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji on 15 May:
This has been a very illuminating meeting. I learned a lot. Allow me to extract four main conclusions from everything I heard today.
The first is that the Pacific Island States have the moral authority to tell the world that climate change needs to be reversed, because the Pacific Island States are leading by example. Even with all the difficulties – the lack of resources, the isolation, the distances, the lack of scale –the truth is that the Pacific Island States are not only building resilience and investing in adaptation to protect their citizens, their communities and their culture to protect their environment, but they are fixing for themselves very ambitious targets in relation to mitigation.
I heard today the very important commitment that the countries of the region are assuming to dramatically reduce emissions and be able to be fully in line with the target that we have all fixed to make sure that the temperature does not rise at the end of the century by more than 1.5 degrees.
I was surprised by the level of innovation you introduced, by the efforts made by the Pacific partnership in all its dimensions, by the commitments made by different countries in relation to their nationally determined contributions. This should be an example for the most developed countries in this world. I was surprised by the very advanced innovations announced using mobile technologies and mobilizing all capacities of the States in order to make sure that countries who are victims of climate change without contributing to it, that they do everything possible at their scale to reduce emissions and to show solidarity with the rest of the world.
This moral authority of the Pacific Island States needs to be clearly recognized.
The second conclusion I would like to make is that we are not yet winning the battle. We are not yet winning the battle in relation to climate change and we are not yet winning the battle in relation to oceans, which are so clearly interlinked with climate change.
We are not on track to be able to achieve our goal which, I want to reaffirm, is to limit the growth of temperatures by the end of the century to 1.5 degrees. We are not on track to reach that goal. The scientific community has defined that to reach that goal we need to have zero net emissions in 2050. We are not globally on track. The pacific islands are, but the world is not. We need to say to those that start arguing that this objective is not possible or that it is too much and they don’t have the capacity to do all the transformation challenges that are needed in energy or in industry or in agriculture or in mobility – it’s important to tell them – and this is a clear consensus among us – that the objective of reaching the end of the century with no more than 1.5 degrees is possible, that the objective of achieving carbon neutrality in 2050 is possible, and what is required is political will.
What is required is, especially from those that contribute the most to climate change, is the same determination that I’ve seen in this meeting.
We will not give up and we want the Summit that we are convening in September to be a reaffirmation of this objective and its feasibility and the request for the political will to be in place, especially from those countries that are contributing more to climate change.
The third conclusion is that everything is interlinked. Climate change is linked to the obstacles and problems of development. There is a clear connection between climate change and the situation in the oceans. Climate change is forcing people to move and there are problems of recognition of the rights of people forced to move by climate change, who are not considered refugees according to international law.
We must mobilize the whole multilateral system taking profit of COP25, taking profit of the ocean’s conference that will take place in Lisbon, taking profit of other initiatives that we’ll be able to put together. We need to mobilize the international community as a whole to address climate change in the context of all the other problems that we are facing and all the other battles that we are not winning. We are not winning the battle of the oceans. We are not winning the battle of displacement and we need to be able to convert our efforts to take into account the questions of security, the questions of resilience, and all the problems that we face.
Again, I would like to say that I’ve seen in the testimonies of the Pacific Island States a very clear commitment to look into all these questions in a comprehensive way because to a certain extent they’ve been victimized by the comprehensive nature of the challenges they face.
Finally, I would like to say that there is a very clear conclusion for me from this meeting.
That conclusion is that we need to join our efforts and we need to bring together all actors and we need to do very strong advocacy in order to make sure that not only the countries of the Pacific will not suffer what would be inevitable if we don’t reach our goal, but telling the rest of the world that this is not a question of being generous or showing solidarity with the Pacific. The Pacific faces huge challenges but it is not alone. We see today devastating stories including recently in the United States of America. We see today drought progressing in Africa in a way that it becomes a terrible threat for the security not only of the African continent but of the Mediterranean and to the European continent.
We see already today, heatwaves killing people in Europe in large numbers. We see glaciers receding, corals bleaching – everywhere in the world, not just in the Pacific Island States. And we see food security for the whole world being put into question.
So the message of the Pacific is not to say “look at us, we are in trouble”. The message is to clearly say, “we are determined to address the challenge of climate change but it’s not only of the Pacific that it’s a stake, it’s the whole planet and even the most developed countries in the world will face dramatic impacts.”
What we ask for is not solidarity, it’s not generosity, it is enlightened self-interest from all decision-makers around the world.
Secretary-General’s remarks to the press
Suva, 15 May 2019
Question: Hello Secretary-General, welcome to Suva and the Pacific – my question is having heard there is a race for climate change and ocean during the High-Level meeting this morning calling for swift and decisive action from your office and that is a big responsibility a big political ask. How do you think to handle or to deal with the call from Pacific leaders in addressing global climate change and their concerns? And the second question is your meeting in September – what are the two key messages which you are going to emphasis in terms of mobilising global action in addressing this huge problem?
Secretary-General: The two questions are the same question. They are on the same side. What we need is to mobilise the international community to agree with us on what needs to be done knowing that the Pacific Island States have a huge moral authority to do so. The Pacific Island States do not contribute to climate change, but they are in the first line of the negative impact of climate change, and they are doing everything not only to protect their populations and their culture but also to reduce their emissions in a way as an example for the most developed countries in the world.
Now – and this is one of the messages of the Climate Summit – it needs to be very clear that the world cannot have an increase of temperature at the end of the century above 1.5 degrees. That what the scientists said needs to be implemented. The world needs to accept that for that we need to achieve net zero emissions or carbon neutrality in 2050. This is achievable. This can be done but it requires transformational action and that is why I have been saying for instance that countries need to tax less salaries more carbon.
I have been saying that such need for fossil fuels needs to end. It is unacceptable that taxpayers’ money is spent subsidising fossil fuels to make the oceans rise, to spread terrible storms, to increase drought in several areas of the world, to bleach corals, to make glaciers melt. We need to make sure that we tax pollution not people and that we don’t subsidise what is destroying the environment. At the same time, it is clear that we must bet everywhere in the world on the green economy as that is the economy of the future. One of the ways to do so, and I have been saying time and time again, by stopping the construction of new coal powered plants from 2020 onwards.
It is possible to achieve our goals, but we need decisions, political will and transformational policies to allow us to still live in peace with our own climate. It is not only the Pacific at stake. It is the whole planet that is at stake and the Pacific is in the frontline, and I am very grateful to the leadership of the Pacific Island States and the President and Prime Ministers that spoke today which such a strong conviction about the need to rescue our planet.
Question: We are having a debate in Australia during our election campaign about climate change, some politicians in Australia argue the costs of high emissions targets would be ruinous to the Australian economy do you have a response to that argument and can I ask
if, no matter who wins, the election in only a few days what direction do you hope the future Australian government will take on climate change?
Secretary-General: If I have learned something in more that (twenty) years of political life is that foreigners should not get involved in electoral debates in other countries, so I do not intend to get involved in the national debate of Australia. What I said about climate change, what I said how to make sure we reach our 1.5-degree goal, and what I said about how to get net zero emissions in 2050 is not Australia, it is valid for the whole world.
Question: I have a question for the UN Secretary-General – In a joint statement of PIF (inaudible) because if we might against climate change we need the money so how will the UN play this role of multilateral role to promote healthy international cooperation? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well first of all, we have appointed the President of France, the Prime Minister of Jamaica and Emir of Qatar to lead an international effort in order to be able to clarify during our summit how the $100 billion dollars that from 2020 were promised to the developing world in relation to mitigation and adaptation can be effectively mobilized. On the other hand, we are very strongly engaged in dialogue with the Green Climate Fund in order not only for its replenishment to be possible but also for it to be friendlier in the way it handles the situations and projects namely projects in the city.
We are getting engaged with financial institutions and I would say with success. The World Bank has announced that it is doubling their support for climate action from $200 billion to $400 billion in five years and half of it for adaptation which is recognition of the problem that already exists due to climate change and this is a very important fact. The same is happening with other international financial institutions and we heard today that an important project was approved by the World Bank in the Pacific just a few days ago. So we are really doing everything we can to mobilise the international community to make sure that finance is not the obstacle for us to be able to address the problems of climate change.
But it is not only enough to have money available, it is essential to have access to that money and small countries with small administrations need simplified procedures in order to be able to have access to the money that is available. We can have hundreds of billions but if we do not have simplified procedures to allow for whatever thousand projects to be implemented we will be in trouble. It is more money, but also better mechanisms in the management of that money for it to be accessible for those that are in need and there are more difficulties from the point of view of the technical capacity in the complex side that is always involved in climate change discussions.
Question: Any closing remarks?
Secretary-General: You can be absolutely sure that what I have learned here will have a huge impact in what I’ve been trying to do in a very determined way, namely in the preparation of the Climate Summit in September. Thank you.