The war in Ukraine is not only creating global economic turmoil, but also threatening international efforts to combat climate change, according to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The UN chief spoke to Euronews on the sidelines of the five-day UN ocean conference in Lisbon. More than 7,000 participants descended on the Portuguese capital to take part in the Ocean Summit. With the message ‘Save our ocean, protect our future’, the rally aims to serve as a call to action for policy makers to reverse the decline in ocean health.
Asked how the fight against climate change could be put back at the top of the international agenda, António Guterres told Sérgio Ferreira de Almeida of Euronews that it was about raising the issue as much as possible on all foreheads.
“If you look at the war in Ukraine, the war in Ukraine shows how important it would have been if, over the last decades, we had invested heavily in renewable energy. If that had happened, we would not be today. at the mercy of the fossil fuel industry today with extremely high prices, as you know, which undermine people’s quality of life and undermine the situation of many developing countries. So if the war in Ukraine shows any thing, [it] is that we have to accelerate the green transition, which means that we have to fight climate change much more effectively.”
Guterres also called the countries’ recent decision to accelerate investment in fossil fuels a suicide.
“It’s suicide and I hope people will understand that suicide isn’t exactly the best way to face the future.”
Global food security
On the issue of global food security and access to the Black Sea, the Secretary-General insists that the UN is working hard to broker an agreement between Russia and Ukraine with the help of Turkey to allow the export of Ukrainian grain from its ports.
“As for access from Ukrainian ports, that is exactly what the UN plan is aiming for, which was presented to the Russians, to the Ukrainians, with the support of Turkey and we hope it will be soon possible to have a meeting of the four in Istanbul, on the basis of the various consultations which have been held, particularly at the bilateral level by the military of these three countries, we hope that it will be possible to reach an agreement allowing the export of Ukrainian grain. at the same time, that international countries should facilitate the export of Russian foodstuffs and fertilizers, since it is true that there are no sanctions applied to foodstuffs and fertilizers, but there are complexities in terms of shipping, insurance, payments that need to be resolved and that is why we have been in close contact with the European Union, with the United States and with Russia in order to be able to reach a global agreement as well foreseeing access of Ukrainian and Russian food products and fertilizers to world markets.”
On the opening day of the Ocean Conference, António Guterres warned that coastal ecosystems are dying because of the climate crisis and called on countries to do more to tackle ocean plastic pollution. He also apologized to the world’s younger generations, blaming his own generation for the environmental crisis the world is currently facing.
“My generation is responsible for the fact that we are at war with nature, that we have climate change, that the situation is not under control. We should reduce emissions considerably in recent decades. And the forecasts, based on the current commitments of Member States around the world, would still represent an increase in emissions in 2030, which is suicidal, totally unacceptable.And in relation to the oceans, we are still losing the battle to preserve our oceans, in relation to to the [warming] and acidity caused by climate change, coral loss, biodiversity loss, overfishing, plastic pollution, other forms of [toxin] pollution that makes several coastal areas totally lifeless. I mean, we are still losing the battle to preserve the oceans and that needs to be reversed. My generation, in fact, was unable or unwilling to detect when it was necessary to detect that the situation was spiraling out of control.”
Asked about his hopes for the future and whether he remains optimistic about solving the climate crisis before it’s too late, Guterres said.
“It is not a question of optimism or pessimism. I am determined to do my utmost to become world leaders in politics, but also in the economic sector… let us not forget that the fuel industry fossils has spent billions and billions for decades with pseudoscience and with public relations and all kinds of lobbying trying to convince the world that climate change wasn’t that bad and that fossil fuels weren’t creating the problems that they create. A bit like the tobacco industry did a few decades ago. . So the economic leaders also have a huge responsibility. And all of them, the political leaders, the economic leaders must understand that we are in a emergency situation and that this emergency requires drastic measures.
_To watch the full interview, click on the video player above_