03 November 2019

Opening remarks at press encounter following ASEAN-UN Summit

António Guterres

Ladies and gentlemen of the media thank you very much for your presence.
I want first of all to express my gratitude to the government and people Thailand for their extremely warm hospitality.
I want to say that I am extremely happy with the UN ASEAN summit that had just finished. Two years ago, I asked for a quantum leap in relations between ASEAN and the UN and we can, today, verify that that a quantum leap happened.
The cooperation between the two organizations is today exemplary, extremely deep and diversified, and it is a fundamental pillar of multilateralism in our world. I was extremely encouraged with a very strong commitment in favor of multilateralism that transpired from all the interventions during today's meeting. We are totally committed to a world in which international law prevails in international relations, and in which multilateral organizations have a key role to play in the management of world affairs.
I also want to say that there was a very strong convergence of points of view, innovation of some of the key concerns that we have. This is a summit on partnership for sustainability. And the most of dramatic threat to sustainability today is climate change.  Climate change was referred to practically by all heads of state and governments that that intervened today as a major concern for us all.
Indeed, we are still losing the race. Climate change is running faster than what we are. We all see the dramatic impact of climate change in natural disasters, in drought and in different events around the world from glaciers that melts from the ice cap that disappear from the corals that bleach, but more and more with dramatic impacts in the life of the people and in the health of people around the world.
Just a few days ago, and this was referred during the meeting, a research institute published what is the result of an analysis about this speed with which the sea-level is rising. According to that research, the sea-level is rising much faster than what was expected and forecasted in the past. It is now foreseen that if we are not able to defeat climate change, we will have in 2050 an impact of the sea-level rise on over 300 million people. Now, of these 300 million people, 70% are in countries that either belong to ASEAN or to other Asian countries that will be coming to Bangkok to meet with ASEAN during these days. It is absolutely essential to avoid for this to happen.
Thailand, for instance, is threatened to have 10% of its population impacted by the flood created by the high level of the rise of the sea. That is the reason why I've been strongly appealing for the needs of the international community to comply with what is the best science available and what the scientists have asked us to do in the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change. This means to limit the growth of temperature to 1.5 degrees at the end of the century, to be carbon neutral in the world in 2050, and to reduce emissions by 45% in the next decade. If we miss these objectives the situation will be catastrophic, with dramatic impact around the world, and four of the 10 countries more dramatically impacted by climate change countries are from ASEAN.
It is my deep belief that it is essential to put a price on carbon – today Singapore has announced that its carbon tax is already fully operational – that it is essential to stop subsidies to fossil fuel . Subsidies come from taxpayers money. It doesn't make sense taxpayers money, our money, is used to boost hurricane, to bleach corals or to melt glaciers.
It is also essential to stop the construction of new coal-based power plants from 2020 onwards. And, in relation to this, I had the occasion to express my deep concern with the fact that there is still very meaningful lists of new power plants based on coal for the next future in different parts of the world. But a large part of this list of coal power plants projected is in countries of East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia. And I believe that it's very important to recognize that the addiction to go can undermine our efforts to defeat climate change.
We had the opportunity to discuss many other aspects of our cooperation from disaster risk reduction to counter-terrorism and the prevention of violent extremism, to aspects related to the Sustainable Development Goals and the alignment of the Vision 2025 from ASEAN with the Agenda 2030 of the UN, with the empowerment of women, with the protection of vulnerable sectors of the population, about human rights , all other aspects of our cooperation were mentioned.
I also had the opportunity to express my concern with a dramatic situation of the refugees from Myanmar in Cox’s Bazaar, whose situation is getting worse by the day and with the need for Myanmar to actively engage in a national reconciliation, able to create the conditions for the peaceful for the voluntary return of the refugees in safety and dignity to a peaceful Rakhine State.
I am at your disposal for any question that you would like to raise.