News Item

U.N Secretary General urges Pacific youth to put world leaders ‘under pressure’

Media 17 May 2019

(U.N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks with media at AUT Manukau campus. Credit: Pacific at AUT)

The U.N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ first Pacific tour has amplified the issue of climate change, rallying behind Pacific leaders and youth across the region.

In his opening statement to secondary and tertiary students at the Auckland University of Technology Manukau campus, the U.N Leader says the world needs youth leadership when it comes to addressing climate change.

“Climate change in my opinion is the most defining issue of our time,”

“We need the leadership of the youth in relation to this because those that have the responsibility in the world, especially governments are largely - with exceptions, not showing enough political will.”

The U.N leader said that as a result, the devastating effects of climate change continue to rise hitting Pacific nations the most. Guterres explained that it is critical to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 so that the planet does not increase its temperature by 1.5 degrees.

“I’m confident that youth around the world will be able to convey to their governments a very clear message I would like to convey here from the Pacific.”

“First, shift taxes from salaries to carbon. We must tax pollution not people.”

“Second, stop subsidies to fossil fuels. Taxpayers money should not be used to boost hurricanes, to spread drought and heatwaves, to bleach corals or to melt glaciers.”

“Finally, stop the construction of new coal plants by 2020. We want a green economy, not a grey economy in the world.”

During the question and answer session, one student asked Mr. Guterres what actions young people needed to take to address climate change, he replied that young people need to be as “noisy as possible.”


(AUT student addressing the U.N leader during the question and answer session)

“Mobilise your societies, your parents, families and friends and put your Governments under pressure – that’s what I’m asking you now.”

“We need to make sure that this climate change trend is reversed and unfortunately my generation is not showing the capacity to do so, so we need your leadership, your support, your movement and your capacity to mobilise your society to make sure we are able to reverse this trend.”

Visit to the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat headquarters, Fiji


(With the heads of the Pacific at PIFS. Credit: PIFS)

The U.N leader concluded his New Zealand following his visit to Christchurch to attend the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting in Suva, Fiji on Wednesday reiterating his message of carbon neutrality.

Mr. Guterres stressed to the local and international press in Fiji that although the Pacific region is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, its people are resilient and “important allies in the fight against it”.

“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.”

“The Pacific Island States have the moral authority to tell the world that climate change needs to be reversed, because the Pacific Island states are leading by example.

“Even with all the difficulties – the lack of resources, the isolation, the distances, the lack of scale – the truth is that the Pacific Island States are not only building resilience and investing in adaptation to protect their citizens, their communities and their culture to protect their environment, but they are fixing for themselves very ambitious targets in relation to mitigation.”

Tuvalu and Vanuatu

Mr. Guterres will also travel to Tuvalu and Vanuatu, two Pacific nations that are the most at-risk of sinking from rising sea-levels and susceptible to natural disasters.

The Pacific tour is a lead-up to the Climate Action Summit that Mr. Guterres will convene in New York this September.