12 May 2019

Opening remarks at press encounter with Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

António Guterres

Thank you very much Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. First of all, happy Mother’s Day. This is a visit of both solidarity and gratitude. Solidarity first of all with the victims of Christchurch, with their families, with the community, with the city but also with the people and the government of New Zealand.
Every year since the time that I was High Commissioner for Refugees, I do a solidarity visit during Ramadan, normally to a Muslim country. As Secretary-General, I went to Afghanistan in my first year, to Mali in my second year. This time I decided to do my solidarity visit of Ramadan to the community in Christchurch to pay tribute to their courage, to their resilience, but also to pay tribute to the extraordinary unity and to the message of solidarity that was given by the people and the government of New Zealand. And I’d like to say how much I admire Prime Minister, your leadership – the way you convey very strong messages to your country and to the world, the way you immediately took measures in relation to this aspect of gun control, and now you’re call to action in relation to the need to prevent the negative aspects of social media and the Internet in relation to hate speech is something that is of course very important for us.
I’ve launched two initiatives to mobilize the UN system, one exactly to fight hate speech under the leadership of our Under-Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, and another one to be able to better support countries in the protection of holy sites under the leadership of the Alliance of Civilizations. Of course, your appeals and your leadership are extremely important in this context.
But this is also a visit of gratitude – to express my deep gratitude to New Zealand for New Zealand’s leadership in relation to the fight against climate change. We are facing a climate emergency. Climate change is running faster than what we are. The last four years have been the hottest registered. We are seeing record levels both in the rise of temperatures across the globe, in relation to the rising level of the oceans, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
We are facing a paradox. We are feeling clearly by what happens on the ground that things are getting worse, even worse than it was forecasted. We see devastating storms, the most recent one in Mozambique. They are becoming more frequent and with more dramatic humanitarian consequences. We see drought progressing terribly, namely in the African continent, in other parts of the world, and becoming a dramatic factor pushing for the movement of people and for the deterioration of security and the progress of terrorism, and we are seeing everywhere a clear demonstration that we are not on track to achieve the objectives defined in the Paris Agreement. The paradox is that as things are getting worse on the ground, political will seems to be fading. That is why the leadership of the government of New Zealand is extremely important and that’s why I’m very grateful for that. Not only is New Zealand fully in line with what was promised by New Zealand in Paris, but New Zealand is introducing legislation to achieve a fundamental goal that the scientific community has defined as absolutely crucial, which is to reach the end of the century without more than 1.5 degrees, which means achieving carbon neutrality before 2050. Your leadership Prime Minister is absolutely crucial in this regard and I’m extremely grateful for it.
I’m also grateful for what has been New Zealand’s support to the Pacific Island States. They are really in the frontline of the dramatic impacts of climate change. I’ll be visiting Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu and convey a very strong message from the Pacific to the rest of the world: We absolutely must catch up, we absolutely must be able to stop this dramatic trend, to reverse this dramatic trend. We cannot allow for a runaway climate change. We need to protect the lives of all people and we need to protect our planet.