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UN Secretary-General has confidence in youth leadership

UN Secretary-General has confidence in youth leadership

  • 17 May 2019
UN Secretary with Indira Stewart

The man in charge of the United Nations (UN) has addressed Pacific youth in Auckland about showing leadership to help achieve the UN's climate change goals.

Secretary-General (SG) for the UN, Antonio Guterres, who is the former Prime Minister of Portugal, took part in numerous events in Auckland and Christchurch as well as meeting with Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern during his visit to New Zealand last week. 

Guterres has been on tour in the Pacific, including visits to Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Zealand, to see how climate change is impacting the region.

In Auckland, a Q&A session was staged at AUT South Campus where Tongan Journalist Indira Stewart of Radio NZ interviewed Gutteres, before he presented a key-note speech to an audience consisting of mainly Pacific students, youth and members of Generation Zero – a youth-led climate organisation that champions solutions towards a carbon neutral Aotearoa.

The SG thanked New Zealand and Generation Zero for “representing the very important leadership that youth around the world are providing to make sure we are able to reach our central objective: not to have more than 1.5 degrees of increasing temperature at the end of the century”.

“The international community and especially the scientific community, has been very clear that to reach this goal we absolutely need to have carbon neutrality by 2050,” the SG says.

“I’m extremely grateful to the leadership of New Zealand…and extremely grateful to the youth leadership.”  

The SG is passionate about climate change, and recently told the Associated Press the world needed to dramatically change the way vehicles, homes and factories were fuelled to limit global warming.

He says the alternative would mean a catastrophic situation for the whole world.

However, during his address at AUT South Campus, he spoke about his confidence in youth around the world being able to convey to governments a very clear message.

“This is the message I would like to convey here from the Pacific,” he says.

“First, shift taxes from salaries to carbon - we must tax pollution not people; secondly, 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, he would like to see a stop to the construction of new coal plants by 2020.

“We want a green economy not a grey economy in the world.”

It is very important for the world’s young people, civil society and those in the business community understand the green economy is the economy of the future and the grey economy has no future, and that youth need to convince governments they must act and not continue resisting, he adds.

During his time in Auckland, the SG also met with youth climate change and environmental leaders, chaired by Climate Change Minister Hon James Shaw; and he participated in a roundtable discussion with Pacific community organisations and international NGOs.  

While he was in Christchurch, he participated in a climate change and agriculture event as well as laying a floral tribute to the victims of the March 15 terror attack.

The SG’s visit to Aotearoa came only days after the New Zealand Government unveiled the Zero Carbon Act – legislation aiming to reduce all greenhouse gasses, excluding biogenic methane, to net zero by 2050; while his Pacific tour comes months before the highly anticipated UN Climate Action Summit in September.