The UN Secretary-General António Guterres saw the frontline of “the battle against climate change” for himself on Thursday, by taking to the tropical waters of the South Pacific off the coast of Fiji, on a solar-powered boat.
Mr. Guterres was greeted on board the Uto ni Yalo, a traditional emission-free ship built as part of a naval fleet that combines the ancient craft of Pacific shipbuilding with modern materials and green technology.
“As Secretary-General, I have many battles”, the UN chief tweeted. “As a grandfather, the battle against climate change is the battle of my life” adding “it’s a battle we’re not winning”.
The ship, whose name means “Heart of the Spirit”, has circumnavigated the world twice, sailing over 80,000 nautical miles to countries in the Northern and Southern hemispheres to motivate community, corporate and policy commitments to protect the world’s islands and ocean spaces.
Mr. Guterres held firmly to his belief that “we need stronger political will and urgent climate action to save our planet and our future”.
He also participated in an interactive session with students at the University of the South Pacific on combating climate change, where he heard about their work and told them, “The world needs your generation to keep my generation accountable.”
He assured them that the UN is committed to continue listening to their voices and opening pathways for meaningful participation in decisions that affect them.
“Young people around the world are driving transformative climate action and MUST keep up the pressure on their leaders” he tweeted. “The determination of the students I met in Fiji is key to living at peace with our climate”.
For their part, the students in Fiji told the UN chief that they want the world to know they are calling for urgent climate action.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Guterres laid a wreath at the National War Memorial for the fallen peacekeepers in the Pacific region, where he tweeted that “Since the 1970s, Fijian peacekeepers have served in UN peacekeeping missions, [where] some have made the ultimate sacrifice”. He thanked Fiji “for its contribution to protecting the vulnerable”.
As well as meeting Fiji's President Geogi Konrotti, where they planted a ceremonial coconut tree, the Secretary-General told a joint press conference with Prime Minister Josia Furek Benimarama that climate change was "a life battle for Fiji and the Pacific."