Bahamas, Monday September 16, 2019 – World leaders
attending the upcoming UN Climate Action Summit are being urged to show up
armed not with speeches but with plans to achieve carbon neutrality, reduce
emissions and improve adaptation.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued the charge during a
visit to The Bahamas, which continues to reel from the onslaught of Hurricane
Dorian. UN agencies are on the ground to support relief efforts in the affected
islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
Speaking to journalists in the capital, Nassau, the UN chief
expressed international solidarity with the Government and people of the island
“In some areas, more than three-quarters of all buildings have
been destroyed, hospitals in ruins or overwhelmed, schools turned into rubble.
Thousands of people will continue to need help with food, water and shelter,
and many more facing the uncertainties of the future after having lost
everything,” he said.
Guterres noted that the climate crisis has generated
“turbocharged” hurricanes and storms, which are occurring with greater
intensity and frequency. And without urgent action, climate disruption will
only get worse, packing what he described as “a triple punch of injustice.”
“First, the worst impact is on countries with the lowest
greenhouse emissions; The Bahamas are a very good example of that. Second, it is the poorest and most vulnerable
people in those countries who suffer most, and again, the same has happened
with the communities in The Bahamas. And third, repeated storms trap countries
in a cycle of disaster and debt.”
While the financial cost of Hurricane Dorian has not yet been
determined, Guterres estimated it will be in the billions of dollars.
“The Bahamas cannot be expected to foot this bill alone. These new large-scale climate-related disasters require a multilateral response. Climate financing is one element,” he said. “We must reach the target of $100 billion per year from public and private sources, for mitigation and adaptation in the developing world, as rich countries have been promising for nearly a decade. And we must improve access to development financing. In cases like the Bahamas, I strongly support proposals to convert debt into investment in resilience.”
The @UN chief @antonioguterres is in The Bahamas calling for more international support to overcome crippling impact of #HurricaneDorian – it’s another sign of #ClimateCrisis, with most vulnerable worst hit: pic.twitter.com/4cDrHPqPrG
— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) September 14, 2019
Above all, Guterres called for greater global action.
“The entire international community must address the climate
crisis through rising ambition and action to implement the Paris Agreement. The
best available science, as reported by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate
Change, says we must ensure collectively that global temperature rise does not
go beyond 1.5 degrees. And it says we
have a window of less than 11 years to avoid irreversible climate disruption
and that we must reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and achieve carbon
neutrality by 2050,” he continued.
“And this is why I am asking all leaders to come to the climate
summit with plans, not speeches, in New York in one week’s time.”
Visiting a shelter for hurricane evacuees later in the day, Guterres
met many who were also refugees from Haiti, and higlighted the generous support
that had been given to them by the Bahamian Government and people. The presence
of so many vulnerable refugees showed how important international support was,
” in order to help the Bahamas cope not only with the impact of the storm,
but also with need to be able to assist populations that are very vulnerable of
foreigners living in the country, many of them undocumented”.
He reiterated the need for climate action, now: “It is
totally unacceptable that we go on subsidizing fossil fuels. It’s totally
unacceptable that such a large number of coal plants are being built in the
world. It’s totally unacceptable that we don’t make an effort to put a price on
carbon. If we don’t reverse the situation we’ll see tragedies like this one
multiplying and becoming more and more intense, more frequent.”
Asked what the UN’s key role is in response to the hurricane now, he said that intensifying the international effort was key, “because there is a lot of immediate aid that’s necessary and there is reconstruction that will require also that solidarity. And at the same time, we all need to do everything we can to reduce the risks that have had such a tragic impact in the Bahamas and (the) means to fight climate change effectively.”