United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on the world's decision-makers to make "enlightened" choices on climate action because "the whole planet" is at stake.
"Over the past week, I've witnessed firsthand the impacts of climate change in the Pacific Island States," the UN chief said in a statement on Friday concluding a week-long visit to the South Pacific.He said: "They contribute very little to the global climate emergency and yet, they're the ones that are being most affected."
The UN chief, according to UN News, did not mince words in saying that for some of them, "climate change is now an existential threat".
Pointing out that entire villages are being relocated, livelihoods destroyed and people becoming sick from climate-related diseases, Guterres lamented: "The risks are all too real".
The UN chief found "remarkable" that the countries facing these enormous challenges, have decided that "they are not giving up" but are instead "determined to find solutions".
Not only have they developed ways to increase their resilience and adaptation, but according to Guterres, "they are leading the way in reducing emissions and are an example that the rest of the world should follow".
Reiterating the powerful message that he has continued to underscore throughout his visit to the South Pacific, the UN chief stressed that "climate change cannot be stopped by the small island countries alone, it has to be stopped by the rest of the world" and that this requires the political will for "transformational policies in energy, mobility, industry and agriculture".Guterres echoed the "three urgent messages" to world leaders that he had "consistently conveyed" throughout his visit to the Pacific, beginning with shifting taxes from salaries to carbon. "We need to tax pollution, not people," he reiterated.
Second, he flagged that countries must stop subsidising fossil fuels.
"Taxpayers' money shouldn't be used to boost hurricanes, spread drought and heatwaves, melt glaciers and bleach corals," he asserted.
And third, he argued against building new coal plants by 2020, saying "we need a green economy not a grey economy".
Guterres said solidarity or generosity is not being sought, "it is enlightened self-interest from all decision-makers around the world" that is needed "because it's not only of the Pacific that is at stake, it's the whole planet".
"To save the Pacific is to save the whole planet," concluded the Secretary-General.