The prologue is exceptional. In the midst of the insufferably sizzling summer in South Asia, the UN Secretary-General has initiated a critical essay towards climate change ~ an almost intractable issue ~ before leaders of both the developed and developing world assemble at the high table in September.
António Guterres has begun his mission in New Zealand with a specific compliment to the young Maoris and people of the Pacific Islands in general for their contribution towards fighting climate change.
While senior citizens falter at the high table, whether in Copenhagen, Cancun or Paris, he has implicitly recognised the positive role that the youth can play.
In particular, Generation Zero, a New Zealand-based youth organization, has recommended solutions to cut carbon pollution through smarter transport, liveable cities and “independence from fossil fuels”.
It remains open to question though whether the developed bloc will readily concur with what he calls the “central objective” ~ “Not to have more than 1.5 degrees of increasing temperature at the end of the century.
I’m confident that youth around the world will be able to convey to their governments a very clear message.” It is the response of the governments that remains an uncertain quantity, notably the one helmed by Donald Trump who had abstained from the international conference in Paris last December.
Unpredictability is the hallmark of his administration. As one who helms the United Nations, its Secretary-General has articulated the voice of the comity of nations. Ergo, the world must of necessity reflect on his goalpost which will make a major difference in the urgent fight against climate change ~ shift taxes on salaries to carbon, end subsidies to fossil fuels, and stop the construction of new coal plants by 2020.
“Taxpayers’ money,” he said “should not be used to boost hurricanes, to spread drought and heatwaves, to bleach corals or to melt glaciers. We want a green economy not a grey economy in the world. It’s very important that you convince governments that they must act because there’s still a lot of resistance.”
The Secretary-General recalled that he had encountered that resistance at COP24, the 2018 UN climate change conference in Paris. Governments, he said, are still afraid to move forward, and are forgetting that the costs of inaction are much bigger than any costs of climate action.
Mr Guterres’ three-point suggestion ought to set the agenda for the next conference. It is the initiative that must be welcomed; the issue bears no relation to the UN’s dithering over dealings with the world’s storm-centres.
He has made a statement of fact, and he wasn’t really playing to the gallery in the New Zealand capital, Wellington. International political resolve is fading and it is the small island nations that are “really in the frontline and will suffer the most”. A message there for President Trump.