Suva, Fiji

15 May 2019

Secretary-General's remarks to the press with Pacific Islands Forum Troika and Pacific Island Forum Secretary-General

Question: Hello Secretary-General, welcome to Suva and the Pacific - my question is having heard there is a race for climate change and ocean during the High-Level meeting this morning calling for swift and decisive action from your office and that is a big responsibility a big political ask. How do you think to handle or to deal with the call from Pacific leaders in addressing global climate change and their concerns? And the second question is your meeting in September - what are the two key messages which you are going to emphasis in terms of mobilising global action in addressing this huge problem?

SG: The two questions are the same question. They are on the same side. What we need is to mobilise the international community to agree with us on what needs to be done knowing that the Pacific Island States have a huge moral authority to do so. The Pacific Island States do not contribute to climate change, but they are in the first line of the negative impact of climate change, and they are doing everything not only to protect their populations and their culture but also to reduce their emissions in a way as an example for the most developed countries in the world.

Now - and this is one of the messages of the Climate Summit - it needs to be very clear that the world cannot have an increase of temperature at the end of the century above 1.5 degrees. That what the scientists said needs to be implemented. The world needs to accept that for that we need to achieve net zero emissions or carbon neutrality in 2050. This is achievable. This can be done but it requires transformational action and that is why I have been saying for instance that countries need to tax less salaries more carbon. 

I have been saying that such need for fossil fuels needs to end. It is unacceptable that taxpayers’ money is spent subsidising fossil fuels to make the oceans rise, to spread terrible storms, to increase drought in several areas of the world, to bleach corals, to make glaciers melt. We need to make sure that we tax pollution not people and that we don't subsidise what is destroying the environment. At the same time, it is clear that we must bet everywhere in the world on the green economy as that is the economy of the future. One of the ways to do so, and I have been saying time and time again, by stopping the construction of new coal powered plants from 2020 onwards.

It is possible to achieve our goals, but we need decisions, political will and transformational policies to allow us to still live in peace with our own climate. It is not only the Pacific at stake. It is the whole planet that is at stake and the Pacific is in the frontline, and I am very grateful to the leadership of the Pacific Island States and the President and Prime Ministers that spoke today which such a strong conviction about the need to rescue our planet.

Question: We are having a debate in Australia during our election campaign about climate change, some politicians in Australia argue the costs of high emissions targets would be ruinous to the Australian economy do you have a response to that argument and can I ask if, no matter who wins, the election in only a few days what direction do you hope the future Australian government will take on climate change?

SG: If I have learned something in more that (twenty) years of political life is that foreigners should not get involved in electoral debates in other countries, so I do not intend to get involved in the national debate of Australia. What I said about climate change, what I said how to make sure we reach our 1.5-degree goal, and what I said about how to get net zero emissions in 2050 is not Australia, it is valid for the whole world.

Question: I have a question for the UN Secretary-General - In a joint statement of PIF (inaudible) because if we might against climate change we need the money so how will the UN play this role of multilateral role to promote healthy international cooperation? Thank you.

SG: Well first of all, we have appointed the President of France, the Prime Minister of Jamaica and Emir of Qatar to lead an international effort in order to be able to clarify during our summit how the $100 billion dollars that from 2020 were promised to the developing world in relation to mitigation and adaptation can be effectively mobilized. On the other hand, we are very strongly engaged in dialogue with the Green Climate Fund in order not only for its replenishment to be possible but also for it to be friendlier in the way it handles the situations and projects namely projects in the city.

We are getting engaged with financial institutions and I would say with success. The World Bank has announced that it is doubling their support for climate action from $200 billion to $400 billion in five years and half of it for adaptation which is recognition of the problem that already exists due to climate change and this is a very important fact. The same is happening with other international financial institutions and we heard today that an important project was approved by the World Bank in the Pacific just a few days ago. So we are really doing everything we can to mobilise the international community to make sure that finance is not the obstacle for us to be able to address the problems of climate change.

But it is not only enough to have money available, it is essential to have access to that money and small countries with small administrations need simplified procedures in order to be able to have access to the money that is available. We can have hundreds of billions but if we do not have simplified procedures to allow for whatever thousand projects to be implemented we will be in trouble. It is more money, but also better mechanisms in the management of that money for it to be accessible for those that are in need and there are more difficulties from the point of view of the technical capacity in the complex side that is always involved in climate change discussions.

Question: Any closing remarks?

SG: You can be absolutely sure that what I have learned here will have a huge impact in what I’ve been trying to do in a very determined way, namely in the preparation of the Climate Summit in September. Thank you.