UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday the Pacific possesses “a unique moral authority” to demand global action on climate change because its people are bearing the brunt of the problem.
Visiting Fiji as part of a South Pacific tour to highlight the dangers of global warming, Guterres said the region was on the front line of climate change.
“Here in the Pacific, sea-level rise in some countries is four times greater than the global average and is an existential threat to some island states,” he said.
He said this was despite the fact that the Pacific islands contributed little to global warming and had been among the first nations to minimise their greenhouse gas emissions.
“Your experiences underscore the urgency of the threat,” he said. “The Pacific has a unique moral authority to speak out — it is time for the world to listen.”
Guterres’ visit — which also includes New Zealand, Tuvalu and Vanuatu — will see the UN chief meet locals whose lives have been upended by cyclones, flooding and other extreme weather events linked to climate change.
It comes ahead of the Climate Action Summit in September in New York, billed as a last chance to prevent irreversible climate change.
Members of the Pacific Islands Forum regional grouping commended Guterres for travelling to see “the everyday reality of climate change”.
They sent a strong message to the New York conference, warning “we are facing an unprecedented global catastrophe for our blue planet”.
“Platitudes and repackaged commitments cannot be the substance of our deliberations,” they said in a statement.
“We need transformational change at scale, and courageous leaders prepared to deliver it.”
Guterres will address the Fiji parliament on Thursday.