United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in New Zealand on Sunday (12 May) to begin his trip to the Pacific region. From 12 May to 18 May, Guterres is scheduled to visit New Zealand, Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu to convey a very strong message from the Pacific to the rest of the world.
Speaking today to media in the New Zealand capital Auckland, alongside New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his solidarity with the victims and families of the March Christchurch mosque attacks, which killed 51 people, and praised Ardern’s leadership in the aftermath of the killings.
Guterres told reporters the reason for the visit was to “pay tribute to their courage, to their resilience, but also to pay tribute to the extraordinary unity and to the message of solidarity that was given by the people and the government of New Zealand.”
The UN chief also expressed his admiration for Ms. Ardern’s rapid and decisive response to the mass shootings, which saw the Government immediately take measures to significantly strengthen gun control legislation, and her call to prevent hate speech on social media and the Internet. Ardern’s appeals and leadership, he added, were extremely important in the context of the UN initiatives to fight hate speech, and to better support countries in the protection of holy sites.
Guterres also congratulated the Prime Minister on New Zealand’s continued commitment towards climate action and expressed his strong concern on the issue. He said, “we are facing a climate emergency. Climate change is running faster than what we are.”
He stressed, “We cannot allow for a runaway climate change. we need to protect the lives of all people and we need to protect our planet.”
The Secretary-General also noted New Zealand’s introduction of legislation to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050 and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century, a goal reiterated by the scientific community in a UN report released in October 2018, described at the time by Mr. Guterres as “an ear-splitting wake-up call.”
However, he said that political will has been fading in other countries, even though they are conscious of the need to act, which is one of the reasons for launching a special UN Climate Summit to be held at UN Headquarters in New York in September.