On Monday, before leaving the Pacific island of Samoa, my wife and I had the honour of sailing on board the Hōkūle’a Worldwide Voyage. Guided by traditional island wisdom, this group of Polynesian navigators are on a three-year canoe trip around the world using only the signs of the waves, winds and stars to find their way. Through their journey, they hope to inspire leaders to take action to protect the planet’s islands and oceans.

Like these intrepid sailors, world leaders today have to chart a course that will help their people prosper and flourish.

I was in Samoa for the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States, a group of countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change.

We have much to learn from small islanders. They have not been defeated by fear but rather have shown extraordinary resilience in the face of adversity. They have called on their ingenuity, innovation and use of traditional knowledge to pioneer sustainable solutions and create the green economies of the future. These small countries, that have contributed so little to climate change, have become an example of the kind of climate action that we need from the rest of the world, in particular the largest emitters.

I am inspired by the commitment to climate action that is so apparent in Samoa and my visit has only made me more determined to do what I can to persuade governments, businesses, and community leaders to act on climate change now.

For countries like Samoa, climate change is not a distant possibility, a problem to be left for tomorrow. The people of small islands know all too well that the impacts of climate change are real and are happening now. Some coastal communities have even lost their homes, livelihoods and traditional way of life. They have become the climate displaced.

The impacts of climate change are acutely felt in Samoa and on other islands, but they are now affecting every country on every continent. And these impacts will only increase as global temperatures rise. Sooner rather than later, the big problems now facing small islands will affect every country. It is only a matter of time.

I am also optimistic about our prospects for dealing with climate change because of the momentum that I have seen building over the past months, as we near the Climate Summit that I will host on 23 September at UN Headquarters in New York.

More and more businesses are reaping the rewards of green investments. More and more governments are embracing affordable solutions that can usher in a low-carbon future. More and more individuals are heeding the call to tackle climate change in their everyday lives — and demanding that their leaders also rise to the challenge.

I hope the Climate Summit will be a turning point for generating climate action and mobilizing political will for a meaningful, universal climate agreement next year.

The stakes could not be higher — our health, prosperity and safety are all in play. I’m asking everyone to step up and become a leader on climate change. Let us listen to the voices from the islands; let us recognize that we all face what they face; let each one of us become a leader on climate change.

This is our chance. There’s no other time than now.
From Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s LinkedIn page