The United Nations Secretary-General is encouraging young people to pressure older generations to act on climate change.
Speaking to students at AUT on Monday May 13, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said his generation was not capable of tackling climate change.
“We are not winning the battle against climate change…my generation is not showing the capacity.”
The international community’s most coordinated effort on climate was the 2015 Paris Agreement, but Guterres said these goals were not even close to being met.
“Paris fixed a goal, but the commitments made at Paris were not enough to meet that goal and we are not even fulfilling those commitments.”
According to Guterres, the commitments made would still allow warming to rise by 3 degrees Celsius, double the agreed goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
However, Guterres’ appeal for youth to fight climate change, which he described as the defining issue of our time, was met with scepticism from some in the room.
One student from the floor made the comment:
“Our species is dying out..and by the time our generation is in power, it will be too late to do anything about it.”
Guterres responded by suggesting youth do not need to be in power to get results and should pressure their parents and governments into action.
“I’m not waiting for you to be in power. I’m waiting for you to be as noisy as possible!
“It is clear that my generation is having immense difficulty accepting responsibility. The youth are my hope.”
The Secretary-General made two policy recommendations for reducing climate emissions: to tax carbon instead of income and to ensure the government is not subsidising fossil fuel industries.
AUTSA President Dharyin Colbert told Debate that Guterres starting his Pacific tour at AUT meant a lot to young people.
“The focus on youth leadership is something we don’t hear often enough,” he said.
“Just the fact that he understands the importance of climate change is incredible.”