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‘Don’t work for climate wreckers’ UN chief tells graduates, in push to a renewable energy future

UN Secretary-General António Guterres was delivering the commencement address at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, one of the oldest and most prestigious Catholic universities in the United States, close to New York City.

He told graduates that they needed to be the generation that succeeds in meeting the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of ending extreme poverty and hunger, reducing inequality, and developing new tech that can “end disease and suffering.”

“You will succeed in replacing hatred and division with reason, civil discourse, and peaceful dialogue. You will succeed in building bridges of trust among people – and recognize the inherent dignity and rights we share as human beings. You will succeed in balancing the scales of power for women and girls, so they can build better futures for themselves and for us all.”

Above all, he said, the graduates who had battled through the impediments thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic, needed to be the generation that addresses the “planetary emergency of climate change.”

‘Dead end’

Investing in fossil fuels is now “a dead end – economically and environmentally. No amount of greenwashing or spin can change that. So, we must put them on notice: Accountability is coming for those who liquidate our future.”

The UN chief said it was time for them to take action, and choose careers wisely, thanks to the benefit of their higher education.

“So my message to you is simple: don’t work for climate-wreckers. Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable futureThanks to Seton Hall, you have the tools and the talents you need.”

He told the graduates they now had a “priceless opportunity to give back, and be the ‘servant leaders’ that our world needs.”

They were heading into “a world brimming with peril”, he warned, with wars and divisions on a scale, not seen in decades.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres receives an honorary degree from Seton Hall University in New Jersey in the United States.

UN Photo/Evan Schneider
UN Secretary-General António Guterres receives an honorary degree from Seton Hall University in New Jersey in the United States.

Crying out for solutions

“Each challenge is another sign that our world is deeply fractured. As I tell world leaders across my travels, these wounds will not heal themselves. They cry out for international solutions.

Only a multilateral approach can help build a better and more peaceful future, said Mr. Guterres: “Building a better, more peaceful future requires collaboration and trust, which are sorely lacking in today’s world.”

It now falls to you, he told his young audience, to “use what you have learned here to do something about it. To live up to your motto, and in the face of peril, go forward in building a better future.”

Throughout history, he said, “humanity has shown that we are capable of great things. But only when we work together. Only when we overcome differences and work in the same direction, with the same aim – to lift all people up, not only those born to wealth and advantage.”

He emphasized the virtues of goodwill, tolerance and respect, calling on the newly minted graduates to invest in being global citizens: “Be useful. Be mindful. Be kind. Be bold. Be generous with your talents.” 

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