Pacific Islands’ Strong, United Voice on Climate Change ‘Has Made the World Pay Attention’, Secretary-General Says in Video Message to Leaders Dialogue

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the Pacific Island Forum Leaders Dialogue, in Fiji today:

I am pleased to address this very important meeting.  This year’s Pacific Islands Forum comes during a time of great risk and uncertainty.  The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives and livelihoods across the Pacific.  As the pandemic evolves, its socioeconomic impacts are now compounded by the war in Ukraine and the growing climate emergency.

Your nations are struggling to recover from the loss of billions of dollars in revenue and the disproportionate impacts you have suffered from these crises.  The food and fuel crisis as a result of the war is spiralling into a global cost of living crisis, hurting people who are already feeling deeply insecure.  The absence of global solidarity is eroding trust and deepening your concern as middle-income small island developing States about how you will achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

For all your development objectives, finance and liquidity are key.  Small island developing States and middle-income countries need access to debt relief and concessional finance to spur recovery and to deliver a fair and just transition to a sustainable future.  We need to reform the international financial system to prevent massive vulnerability to external shocks.  Many of your countries are unable to access debt relief or concessional finance to spur recovery.  Developing economies need access to stable long-term financing at no or low cost, as well as debt relief and restructuring.

On debt, we need immediate relief for all highly indebted, least developed and middle-income countries.  This should include renewing and expanding eligibility for the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and pushing back maturities for two to five years, as well as adjusting the Common Framework for Debt Treatment to make it work.  Which, unfortunately, is not happening now.

In the longer term, efforts are also needed to create sovereign debt workout mechanisms that can significantly reduce the disproportionate burden placed on low-income countries, while bringing all creditors to the table.  Innovative approaches, such as the integration of disaster clauses into debt contracts, already adopted by countries such as Barbados in the Caribbean, should also be scaled up, to ensure that countries receive immediate debt standstills in times of future shocks.

Countries also need access to new financing for Sustainable Development Goals and climate-related investments.  This means immediately rechannelling all unused special drawing rights to benefit developing countries in need.  Efforts are also needed to lower the cost of borrowing, while helping countries leverage affordable finance through public-private partnerships.

Lastly, we must go beyond gross domestic product (GDP) as the sole measure of a country’s economic resilience.  This is why I strongly support the development of a multidimensional vulnerability index that takes into account all the challenges and circumstances that factor into determining access to concessional support.

Let me turn now to the climate emergency.  I commend the strong, united voice of the Pacific on climate change.  It has made the world pay attention.  Now we need climate action that matches the urgency of the crisis, especially from the Group of 20 (G20), who account for 80 per cent of global emissions.

The war in Ukraine cannot be allowed to make short-sighted decisions that shut the door on 1.5°C.  The region needs the world to urgently reduce emissions by 45 per cent this decade leading to carbon neutrality by mid-century.  We also need to see an increase in climate finance with a doubling of finance support for adaptation.

It is also time for a frank discussion and decision-making regarding the loss and damage that your countries are already experiencing.  One-third of the world remains without early warning systems that save lives and livelihoods.  I have asked the World Meteorological Organization to mobilize a plan to ensure universal coverage within the next five years.

And as we address climate risks, we must also attend to the health of the ocean.  The ocean continues to suffer from pollution and over-exploitation, as well as heating and acidification caused by climate change.  The recent United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon provided much-needed momentum.  We now need to see tangible follow-up on commitments to expand marine protected areas and develop the ‘blue economy.’

Our guide for better health, food security, climate action and sustainable development remains the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Inclusive policies, based on human rights and aligned with gender equality and social justice remain the best basis for long-term peace, prosperity and well-being.

I congratulate you all on celebrating 50 years of Pacific regionalism.  And I commend your efforts to develop the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.  The United Nations will continue to support Pacific Island nations in achieving all your development goals.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.