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After listening to Pacific Leaders at the High-Level Political Dialogue in Suva Wednesday, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres recognises that the Pacific has a unique moral authority to speak out on climate change and the oceans.
Describing the meeting with Leaders from the 15 Pacific Islands Forum countries as ‘illuminating’, Guterres said he learnt a lot from the discussions with Pacific leaders.
“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 Islands 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.
He applauded Pacific nations for their commitments to dramatically reduce their emissions fully to ensure global 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 mobilising 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, said Guterres.
He said the moral authority of the Pacific Island States needs to be clearly recognised.
He told Pacific leaders at the end of the high level dialogue that, “we are not yet winning the battle yet – we are not on track to be able to achieve our goal which is to limit the growth of temperatures by the end of the century to 1.5 degrees.
“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 there 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. The objective of achieving carbon neutrality in 2050 is possible, and what is required is political will.”
The UN top diplomat assured the climate action summit he’s hosting in September will 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.
Guterres said 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 need to mobilise 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.
“We must mobilise the whole multilateral system taking profit of COP25, taking profit of the ocean’s conference that will take place in Lisbon, and taking profit of other initiatives that we’ll be able to put together.
Guterres said the testimonies of the Pacific Island States was a very clear commitment to look into all these questions in a comprehensive way because to a certain extent they’ve been victimised by the comprehensive nature of the challenges they face.
“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, and it is enlightened self-interest from all decision-makers around the world, said Guterres.
He is in the Pacific this week to visit Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu after two days in New Zealand.
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