Pacific News Minute: Climate Change The Focus Of The UN Secretary General’s Pacific Tour

May 16, 2019

Credit sanjitbakshi / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is on a tour of Pacific nations ahead of the UN’s Climate Action Summit, which is set for September in New York. Yesterday, the Secretary General spoke to a meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji.

“The Pacific region is on the frontline of climate change,” the Secretary General said, citing the damage from recent cyclones as “ample evidence of the region’s vulnerability.”

And he added that climate change will worsen the risks from more powerful storms, from sea level rise, from the salinization of water and from eventual climate migration. “As coastal areas or degraded inland areas become uninhabitable,” he said, “people will seek safety and better lives elsewhere.”

None of this comes as any surprise to the leaders gathered at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Suva. Earlier, for example, Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, told the meeting that the only way to prevent the current crisis from escalating into total chaos is for every country to commit to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 on a clear path toward carbon neutrality. Bainimarama said larger economies must increase funding to finance mitigation, resilience and adaptation. A hundred billion dollars a year, he said, and that Pacific island countries should lead by example.

In his address, Secretary General Guterres put that another way. “The Pacific has a unique moral authority to speak out,” he said. “It is time for the world to listen.”

Before his arrival in Fiji, the secretary general stopped in New Zealand; he will go on to visit Tuvalu and Vanuatu.