UN Secretary-General Mission to the Pacific

Secretary-General’s remarks at the closing of High-Level Political Dialogue of the Pacific Island Forum, Suva,
15 May 2019

Thank you, Mr. President.

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.