For information only - not an official document

27 May 2019

The Secretary-General

Remarks at Press Stakeout with His Excellency Mr. Alexander Van der Bellen, Federal President of the Republic of Austria

27 May 2019

VIENNA, 27 May (UN Information Service) - Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your warm hospitality. It is always a pleasure to come to Vienna. And indeed this time I have two very important reasons to come again.

First of all, celebrating 40 years of the UN presence in Vienna is also the moment to express our deep gratitude and appreciation for what has been an exemplary support from Austria as a host country.

All our staff members that live in Vienna are extremely grateful for the support they have received and many of them retired here, living in Austria for the rest of their lives, which shows how much they appreciate and enjoy working in Vienna for the United Nations.

And indeed it is very important for us to maintain a part of our headquarters in Europe. The most important contribution of Europe to world civilization in my opinion are the values of the Enlightenment, and those values of the Enlightenment are more important than ever for Europe and for the United Nations. Foremost, the primacy of reason.

And I am absolutely convinced that the work we can do together is today absolutely central, to preserve peace, to preserve security and to create the conditions for the world to be able to avoid the levels of tension that unfortunately, in recent times, have made it much more difficult to preserve peace and security.

On the other hand, it is for me very important to participate, in preparation of our climate summit in September, to participate in the Austrian World Summit on climate.

I came from the Pacific and I could witness with my eyes the existential threat that for some Pacific States climate change represents.

But I understand that in many parts of the world people tend not to be sensitive to the drama of the populations in the Pacific. It is so far away.

The point is that to rescue an island state like Tuvalu is to rescue the planet.

We are seeing everywhere the dramatic impact of climate change: hurricanes, storms are becoming more and more dramatic, more intense, more frequent, with more devastating humanitarian consequences, including in the United States of America.

And of course terribly in the less prepared countries. We have seen recently was has happened in Mozambique. And I know that the President of Mozambique will be at the summit tomorrow.

We see heat waves killing people and killing people in northern Europe in a dramatic way, becoming much more pronounced and with much higher temperatures.

We see forests being attacked by drought, even in Austria. And we see droughts dramatically impacting the African continent. When one looks at the Sahel, climate change is one of the clear reasons why the security situation in Sahel is becoming so threatening, both for central and western Africa but more and more also to Europe.

And we see tropical diseases getting closer and closer to Europe and to other parts of the North. I was told recently that Dengue and Malaria are already existing in some islands of Japan.

So, the climate crisis is something that will have an impact on the lives of everybody everywhere. And to reverse the present trend in which climate change is running faster than we are is an absolute must. And for that, we need in 2020 countries to assume engagements much stronger than the ones that were assumed in Paris.

Even if the Paris Agreement was an enormous success, the truth is that what was promised in Paris will not allow us to reach only 1.5 degrees of temperature increase at the end of the century. It will probably go above three degrees which would be absolutely catastrophic.

We need in 2020 to have countries committing themselves to a much more ambitious set of measures in mitigation in adaptation, mitigation and in finance. And I must tell you that I consider absurd that we are taxing salaries, we are taxing income, and not taxing carbon.

It makes much more sense to reduce taxation on income, to reduce taxation on salaries, and to tax carbon. I can't understand how taxpayers' money is being used to subsidize fossil fuels, to boost hurricanes, to increase drought, to melt glaciers, to bleach corals and to multiply disasters all over the world - with taxpayers' money.

In many parts of the planet, with coal power plants still being built, I have been advocating that from 2020 onwards we should not have any new [coal] power plants being built.

And this is the kind of concrete commitments that we need if we want to reverse the present trend, if we want to be carbon neutral in 2050 as the scientific community considers absolutely essential.

And this meeting in Vienna will be a very important step on the way first of all to our summit in September in New York, but more importantly than that, to the commitments that we want Member States to assume in 2020 to ensure that we are able to rescue our planet.

Thank you.