Madrid, 9 December 2019. 12:30 – 13:30
Thanks to all of you for being here, and in particular my welcome to the members of government, civil society and young people from the Pacific region who are among us.
You, and your colleagues across the Pacific, have been leading the global call for climate action and climate justice from the beginning. It is your communities who are already suffering some of the worst effects of environmental destruction.
The Paris Agreement explicitly commits States to the principle of intergenerational equity – the duty for current generations to act as responsible stewards of the planet, and ensure that future generations can enjoy their fundamental human rights. This principle is essential for the peoples of the Pacific, who already face King tides, extreme weather events, and, in Small Atoll States, threats to self-determination and their way of life.
You, who did not participate in generating this emergency, are among those most threatened by the growing climate emergency. All generations need to stand with you in the fight for climate action, and speak up to protect your rights.
We need to listen to your voices. And in particular, to the voices of young people. In recent months there has been a drumbeat of scientific studies detailing the harm that may be done to our environment by 2030, or 2050. Today's 20 year-olds are likely to live until 2080. And they will bring their children up in a future that has been shaped by the actions that are taken – or not taken – by policy-makers today. We need to grasp our responsibility for ensuring that the human rights of today's young people, and successive generations, are protected and fulfilled.
The commitments being taken at this Conference must be ambitious and transformative; they must be implemented with due urgency; and they must reflect, and support, your proposals and your needs.
I welcome New Zealand's intention to become a regional and world leader in climate change action, particularly its new Zero Carbon Bill and plans to establish an independent Climate Change Commission. I also commend Tuvalu's work to forge consensus with other Pacific Governments on climate action and for hosting the recent 50th Pacific Islands Forum. Vanuatu is another strong voice from the Pacific in the fight against the climate crisis, and is working actively with my Office, including by assisting civil society groups. The Marshall Islands has also pledged stronger engagement with usI welcome the establishment of the Pacific Climate Change Centre by Samoa. Fiji has demonstrated leadership across the Pacific region, and I commend the participatory approach that has been taken in consultations regarding the new Climate Change Bill, which will comprehensively guide Fiji's response to climate change.
These are all crucial steps towards advancing transformative change in our stewardship of the environment.
I honour the work done by civil society and youth activists in advocating this agenda. My Office stands with you, in support of your efforts to advance climate justice and effective, human rights-based solutions for these severe threats.
The Human Rights and Climate Change Conference we held in August, in Fiji, helped many climate change practitioners gain valuable knowledge – from those most affected, and from leading human rights experts. They discussed ways to mainstream human rights into international and global action – including resources and technical support for adaptation efforts in the Pacific. And they looked at how to ensure that Pacific nations speak with a clear, determined and unified voice at the global level. We also held a Regional Young Leaders Dialogue on Human Rights and Good Governance, in October, including many who are present here today.
We will continue to increase our support for the work being done by Pacific States and civil society organisations, including youth and women.
Today, we have on our panel, and in our audience, a number of heroes: human rights defenders who have taken upon themselves the struggle to defend the human rights of their communities and nations. It is time for us to hear from you – and to act on what you say.