Skip to main content

Make Peace with Nature, Secretary-General Urges Young People at Tree Planting Event in Ulaanbaatar, Praising Youth Movement’s Efforts to Fight Climate Change

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Tree Planting Event, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, today:

Before starting, I want to ask our distinguished women and men peacekeepers that are here to please to convey to your colleagues my enormous admiration and my enormous gratitude for their courage, for their determination, for the exemplary way in which in the most dangerous places in the world, they have been protecting civilians, protecting victims in a way that really deserves the admiration of the whole world.

And to the distinguished representatives of the youth that are here, the President just told me that you have a vibrant youth movement in the protection of nature and in fighting climate change.

My generation was very stupid.  My generation declared war on nature — with climate change with the loss of biodiversity, with pollution.  Nature is striking back.  Striking back with storms, with desertification with floods, with disasters that are making life very difficult for many people around the world and causing many victims.

Your generation has an important task to make peace with nature.  And what we are going to do today must be a gesture of that new attitude to make peace with nature.

Thank you very much for allowing me to give a very, very small contribution to your wonderful programme of planting 1 billion trees until 2030 in Mongolia.  I’m very honoured to be part of your project.  I had here a speech to read, but I will not read it.  I want to tell you my story with trees. 

My grandfather, maternal grandfather's family name was Oliveira — in Portuguese it means “olive tree”.  I inherited that family name.  I'm called Oliveira Guterres, my two family names.  And one day my grandfather came with me to small field and showed me a small olive tree.  I was a boy — a small boy — and he told me “I planted this olive tree the day you were born, and I want you for all your life to respect trees and remember that you have a sister tree.  This tree should be a symbol of your own life.”

I must say, I was very happy to know this because, in my country, we have olive trees with more than 1,000 years.  So, I don’t intend to live a thousand years, but I’m happy that I have a sister olive tree that will be there much longer after I die.

So 1 billion trees in Mongolia will make an enormous difference in relation climate change, in relation to biodiversity, in relation to desertification.  It will be the symbol of reconciliation between humanity and nature because only with harmony between humanity and nature there will be a future for this planet.

Thank you very much.  I wish you the best success in the One Billion Tree campaign.

For information media. Not an official record.