02 November 2019

Secretary-General's press encounter at Bangkok's Centenary Park

Secretary-General: [I am very pleased to visit this climate mitigation project, which is very symbolic] and especially because it is in the context of an ASEAN Summit that as sustainability as its main issue for discussion. And the biggest threat to sustainability today in the world is climate change.
Just a few days ago, a research center published a report saying that the level of the oceans is rising much faster than what was forecasted because of climate change. According to this new report, unless we are able to reverse this trend, because climate change for the moment is running faster than what we are, unless we are able to defeat climate change, in 2050 the research has forecasted that 300 million people will be flooded by sea water in the world. 
Dramatically, the most vulnerable areas are exactly in Southeast Asia, in Japan, China, Bangladesh and India. And according to this research, Thailand risks to have 10% of its population in flooded areas by the sea.
People can discuss the accuracy of these figures, but what it is clear is that the trend is there. Climate change is running faster than what we are and is the biggest threat to the planet at the present moment, the defining issue of our time.
That is why we are deeply committed, and in all meetings around the world, deeply committed to raise attention to governments, to the business community, to the civil society, to local authorities, to the needs to abide by what scientists tell us is necessary to do and what science tell us is that we need to contain the rising temperatures 1.5 degrees until the end of the century. And for that to be possible, we need to be carbon neutral in 2050 and reduce the emissions by 45% in the next decade.
Now, this requires a lot of political commitments. And we are not yet that we are lagging behind. We have to put a price on carbon. We need to stop subsidies for fossil fuels. And we need to stop the creation of new power plants based on coal in the future. And this question is particularly sensitive in this part of the world because there is still a meaningful number of new coal power plants for electricity production that is foreseen in the future in East Asia, in Southeast Asia and in South Asia.
There is an addiction to coal that we need to overcome because it remains a major threat in relation to climate change and one of the messages in the summit will be very clearly that countries in these areas that are countries that are in one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change need to give an example, need to be in the front line of carbon pricing, of stopping subsidies to fossil fuels, and of stopping the construction of coal power electricity plants in order to be able to defeat climate change and to preserve the beautiful cities like Bangkok and others that we want as a legacy to humankind forever.
Question: From Reuters. Just question follow up from your comment on the climate change. One of the other key problems that we face this region recently drying up the Mekong River, which has seen one of the drivers carried in more than half a century. And this is about water management is also about climate change is also about hydropower dams being expanded on the Mekong River by countries like China and Laos. You care to comment on this issue?
Secretary-General: Well, in my history I have a story to tell and it is the water agreement between Spain and Portugal. Spain and Portugal reached, when I was Prime Minister of Portugal, a landmark agreement that is considered one of the best agreements in the management of common rivers by different countries. And my encouragement to the countries in that area is to do a common planning of the water resources, namely the Mekong river, that can benefit all countries at the same time. I strongly encourage dialogue and cooperation.
Question: You're here you're here at ASEAN. This is a region which saw the Rohingya crisis. It's been two years now since the expulsion, but many feel that not much has been done to hold the government of Myanmar accountable. What message will you send to Aung San Suu Kyi at this summit? What is the UN doing to move this issue forward?
Secretary-General: The message is very clear. It is absolutely essential for the government of Myanmar to assume as a clear priority, the reconciliation, the internal reconciliation, leading the way to address the root causes the displacement and allowing for the return, voluntary and in safety and dignity, of the refugees to Myanmar. Some steps have been done, but they are too small. We need to do much more.
And we are ready to cooperate. We encourage ASEAN countries to also be involved in cooperating with the government of Myanmar to seriously address the root causes of this conflict and seriously create the conditions that make return possible. Overcoming the obstacles that we all know are still there. We need to be more determined, and we need to move much more quickly than in the recent past.