The world must not allow the loss of a single country or culture due to global warming or a continuation of a two-speed financial world” where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, said UN chief António Guterres in his opening address at the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) in the twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

Guterres said along with their exceptional beauty – be it the blue waters of the Caribbean, South Pacific or the Indian Ocean – SIDS are also exceptionally vulnerable. 

Your unique geography puts you at the mercy of climate chaos, rising sea levels and land degradation. Climate change is an existential crisis for the entire human family, but SIDS are on the frontlines.”

Reliant on imports and complex supply chains, the global shocks of record extreme weather, the tourism destroying COVID pandemic and regional wars, many SIDS have been left reeling in rough waters.

The new Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS outlines steps to achieve resilient prosperity in partnership with the international community”, said the UN chief. 

The United Nations stands with you” in battling the climate crisis; building resilient economies; safe and healthy societies, biodiversity conservation; “and to protect and sustainably use the ocean and its resources.”

He called on SIDS to make bold and sustainable investments themselves – but they can’t succeed alone. 

The international community has a duty to support you – led by the countries that have greatest responsibility and capacity to deal with the challenges you face”, he declared.

SIDS are a test case for climate justice and financial justice”, he said, and with the 1.5 degree limit in temperature rise already fast approaching, “we cannot accept the disappearance of any country or culture under the rising waves.”

The idea that an entire island state could become collateral damage for profiteering by the fossil fuel industry, or competition between major economies, is simply obscene.” 

SIDS have led from the front for decades already, serving as the world’s conscience on the climate crisis – making the difference in Paris in 2015.

Today, we need your fierce voices more than ever”, said the Secretary-General.