UN chief assures strong support to the Pacific's response to climate change

Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has assured the Pacific of the United Nations strong support to the region’s response to climate change and reversing the negative trends that have put cultures and the very existence of Pacific peoples at risk.

Speaking to Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in Suva, Fiji Guterres acknowledged the Pacific island communities active response to the current hardships and future dangers posed by climate change.

According to Guterres, who is on his visit first to the region since his appointment in 2017, Pacific island communities are “drawing on a long history of adaptation and traditional ecological knowledge.’
“You are challenging the status quo. And you are in the forefront of global climate negotiations.”
“I witnessed your leadership at the climate conference last year in Katowice, Poland, in support of the special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees. Your efforts have been very effective in keeping that target at the centre of our objectives,” the UN Secretary General said.
“Moreover, without your advocacy, political leaders would not have recognized the need to address the “loss and damage” caused by climate change.”

Guterres told the High-Level Political Dialogue with leaders that he is in the Pacific to focus on two fundamental challenges for the region and the world.

The first challenge is the increasingly severe impacts of climate change and the second is the deepening threats to the world’s oceans and seas.

Guterres said sea-level rise in some countries in the Pacific is four times greater than the global average and is an existential threat to some island states.
“The damage caused recently by Tropical Cyclones Gita, Josie and Keni, and by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the region, along with other extreme weather events, give us ample evidence of the region’s vulnerability.” 
“Climate change will further worsen the risks. Already, the salinization of water and crops is endangering food security. And the impact on public health is escalating,” he said.
“Climate change also brings clear dangers for international peace and security, as you affirmed in the Boe Declaration adopted last year. There is growing recognition of the links between climate change and security. That link is particularly relevant in the Pacific,” Guterres said. 
He also spoke of the recently appointed a task force that will coordinate a set of UN initiatives to address the multiple challenges of this link.

“And I’m interested in listening to you and giving adequate consultation to your analysis and your suggestions.”
Guterres said he has asked France, Jamaica, and Qatar to lead the mobilization of the international community to materialize the $100 billion U.S dollars per year from 2020 onwards to support the developing countries both in mitigation and adaptation.
“And that is why it is so important to replenish the Green Climate Fund but also to make it more operational – and in particular in relation to Small Island States.”

The meeting in Suva was aimed at building momentum ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in September.

On Friday, the UN Secretary General will travel to Tuvalu and Vanuatu to learn firsthand about the pressures of climate change as well as the work being undertaken by communities to bolster resilience.

Photo Fijian Government. Caption: UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres at the High Level Political Dialogue with Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in Suva, Fiji