Giving hope to the world

I have just returned from Pakistan, where I looked through a window into the future. A future of permanent and ubiquitous climate chaos on an unimaginable scale: Devastating loss of life, enormous human suffering, and massive damage to infrastructure and livelihoods.

It is simply heartbreaking. No picture can convey the scope of this catastrophe. The flooded area is three times the size of my entire country, Portugal.

What is happening in Pakistan demonstrates the sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis, and the betrayal and injustice at the heart of it.

Whether it is Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, small islands or least developed countries, the world’s most vulnerable — who did nothing to cause this crisis — are paying a horrific price for decades of intransigence by big emitters.

G20 countries are responsible for 80 percent of emissions. They are also suffering the impact of record droughts, fires and floods — but climate action seems to be flatlining.

If one-third of G20 countries was under water today, as it could be tomorrow, perhaps they would find it easier to agree on drastic cuts to emissions.

All countries — with the G20 leading the way — must boost their national emissions reduction (targets) and must limit the world’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

Pakistan and other climate hotspots need flood-resilient infrastructure now. And those most responsible for emissions must step up with the funds for adaptation.

At least half of all climate finance and climate resilience should go to adaptation and climate resilience, to protect people and economies. Unless action is taken now, unless funds are disbursed now, these tragedies will simply multiply, with devastating consequences for years to come, including instability and mass migration around the world.

So, my message is clear: Lower the temperature — now. Don’t flood the world today; don’t drown it tomorrow.

The General Assembly is meeting at a time of great peril. Geostrategic divides are the widest they have been since at least the cold war. They are paralyzing the global response to the dramatic challenges we face. Our world is blighted by war, battered by climate chaos, scarred by hate, and shamed by poverty, hunger, and inequality. Conflicts and unrest continue to rage.

The war in Ukraine is devastating a country — and dragging down the global economy. Despite the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the agreement that we are doing everything to make it happen in reality to get Russian food and fertilizers to global markets, there is a real risk of multiple famines this year.

Global hunger began to rise before the pandemic and has never recovered. The cost-of-living crisis is hitting the poorest people and communities hardest, with dramatic effects. The rights of women and girls are going into reverse. Most developing countries have no fiscal space, and no access to the financial resources needed to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and protect their people from the devastating impact of climate change.

The solidarity envisioned in the United Nations Charter is being devoured by the acids of nationalism and self-interest. By a shocking disregard for the poorest and most vulnerable in our world. By politicians who play to people’s worst instincts for partisan gain. By prejudice, discrimination, misinformation and hate speech that pit people against one another. By a global financial system that penalizes those with the least. By fossil fuel corporations killing the planet to rake in the most.

As fractures deepen and trust evaporates, we need to come together around solutions. Solutions like those that will be showcased at the Transforming Education Summit.

People need to see results in their everyday lives, or they will lose faith in their governments and institutions, and they will lose hope in the future.

This year’s General Debate must be about providing hope and overcoming the divisions that are dramatically impacting the world. That hope can only come through the dialogue and debate that are the beating heart of the United Nations and that must prevail next week against all divisions.


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ remarks on the 77th session of UN General Assembly.

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