Tax carbon, not people: UN chief issues climate plea from Pacific 'frontline'

(The Guardian, 15 May 2019) Antonio Guterres hears from leaders at Fiji summit who warn region is facing ‘an unprecedented global catastrophe’.

Governments around the world must introduce carbon taxes, halt plans for new coal plants and accelerate the closure of existing ones if damage to the Pacific from climate change is to be limited, the UN secretary general has told Pacific leaders on his first visit to the region.

Antonio Guterres met leaders of Pacific countries in Fiji, on a trip that will also see him visit Vanuatu, considered one of the countries most vulnerable to natural disasters due to climate change, and Tuvalu, which is at risk of sinking under rising waters.

Speaking after meetings in Suva on Wednesday, Guterres acknowledged the region was “on the frontline of climate change” and its people were “important allies in the fight against it”.

“Here in the Pacific, sea-level rise in some countries is four times greater than the global average and is an existential threat to some island states,” he said.

“My messages to governments around the world from the Pacific are clear: first, shift taxes from salaries to carbon. Tax pollution, not people. Second, stop subsidising fossil fuels. Taxpayer money should not be used to boost hurricanes, spread drought and heatwaves, melt glaciers, and bleach corals. Third, stop building new coal plants by 2020.”

His comments came in the closing days of the Australian election campaign, where climate action is a key issue.

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The Guardian, 15 May 2019: Tax carbon, not people: UN chief issues climate plea from Pacific 'frontline'