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Statement by President Higgins following remarks by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on climate change

Date: Fri 28th Jul, 2023 | 17:19

“The statement made this week by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, with regard to recent scientific papers and the harrowing events of this summer related to climate change is a call that is different from all of his previous statements. He speaks of a crisis that he describes as of how “humanity has unleashed destruction”, of how “the evidence is everywhere”.

As Secretary-General Guterres said:

“The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived. The air is unbreathable. The heat is unbearable. And the level of fossil-fuel profits and climate inaction is unacceptable. Leaders must lead. No more hesitancy. No more excuses. No more waiting for others to move first. There is simply no more time for that.”

We have a responsibility as Heads of State and Heads of Government to respond to Secretary-General Guterres’ statement, to ignore it would be a dereliction of our duty of care to our shared planet. As he stated, “leaders – and particularly G20 countries responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions – must step up for climate action and climate justice”.

The Secretary-General’s pleas in relation to the consequences of climate change are mirrored in the threat of hunger, which is directly affected by the impact of climate change. For example, figures published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations show that 26.2% of Africa’s population experienced severe food insecurity in 2021, with 9.8% of the total global population suffering from undernourishment the same year.

All of the global issues which we are facing are interconnected, as has been recognised and is reflected in the Irish Government’s work seeking to have the impact of climate change as a threat to international peace and security recognised at UN level.

It is time for us all, as leaders and global citizens, to assess as to how words are leading to actions, to increase the urgency of our response to what is an existential threat and to achieve change. It is clear, as the Secretary General’s powerful statement shows, that we need to begin the work of reform in our international institutional architecture, such as UN reform at the highest level, including the Security Council, to achieve what the Secretary-General has suggested is the challenge to “turn a year of burning heat into a year of burning ambition”.

I hope that his statement is read all over the world, as it involves all of humanity.”