What World Leaders Are Saying About The Climate Crisis At UN General Assembly
Calls for unity on climate action by global leaders have rarely been more persistent.
Confronting the existential threat of a looming climate crisis has been a continous talking point at the week-long United Nations summit in New York.
As over 100 world leaders gathered for the annual UN General Assembly—the first in-person meet since the pandemic began—the calls for global unity on climate action have rarely been more persistent. And with a crucial round of climate talks just over a month away, heads of states urged all countries to up their committment to reducing emissions.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that for him the summit in New York had to instill a sense of urgency on the dire state of the climate ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in November. Terming it a "code red" for humanity, Guterres pushed for progress to be made on three fronts: keeping the 1.5 degree Celsius warming target in reach, delivering the promised $100 billion a year for climate action in developing countries and scaling up funding for adaptation.
“We are weeks away from the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, but seemingly light years away from reaching our targets,” he said.
Here's what global leaders are saying about the climate crisis at the UN General Assembly...
Joe Biden: Increasing Climate Aid For Developing Nations
U.S. President Joe Biden pledged that he will work the Congress to double funds to help developing nations deal with climate change to $11.4 billion a year by 2024.
"With the added support of increased private capital and from other donors, we'll be able to meet the goal of mobilising $100 billion a year to support climate action in developing nations," Biden said in a speech laden with calls for multilateralism and cooperation among countries.
"The best part is making these ambitious investments isn't just good climate policy, it's a chance for each of our countries to invest in ourselves and our own futures," he said "It's an enormous opportunity to create good paying jobs for workers in each of our countries, and spur long-term economic growth that'll improve the quality of life for all of our people."
We have to support the countries and the people that'll be hit the hardest and that have fewest resources to adapt.Joe Biden, President, United States of America
U.S. President Joe Biden speaking at the 76th UN General Assembly. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)
According to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, developed countries are falling short of the $100-billion promise, having contributed only $79.6 billion in 2019.
Biden also urged countries bring their highest possible ambitions of climate action to the table at COP26.
Xi Jinping: An End To International Coal Financing
Chinese President Xi Jinping potentially put the final nail in the coffin for international funding of coal with his announcement at the summit.
"China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad," Xi said in a pre-recorded video. "This requires tremendous hard work, and we will make every effort to meet these goals."
"We need to improve global environmental governance, actively respond to climate change and create a community of life for man and nature," he said.
Last year, Xi had pledged that China would achieve carbon neutrality by 2060—an announcement that had pleasantly surprised world leaders.
China's President Xi Jinping speaks during a prerecorded video. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)
Boris Johnson: Eloquent, But Hollow
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's speech lacked any real pledge towards climate action. But it was heavy on imagery and rousing phrases.
"We still cling with part of our minds to the infantile belief that the world was made for our gratification and pleasure and we combine this narcissism with an assumption of our own immortality," Johnson said. “We believe that someone else will clear up the mess we make, because that's what someone else has always done. We trash our habitats again and again with the inductive reasoning that we have got away with it so far, and therefore we will get away with it again."
My friends, the adolescence of humanity is coming to an end. We are approaching that critical turning point, in less than two months, when we must show that we are capable of learning, and maturing, and finally taking responsibility for the destruction we are inflicting, not just upon our planet but ourselves. It is time for humanity to grow up.Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, U.K.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the UN General Assembly. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)
He said the world had the tools for a green industrial revolution but time is "desperately short" for action.
A climate change skeptic in the past by his own admission, Johnson said that the Covid-19 pandemic has only proved that the "gloomy scientists" have been right all along.
The U.K. Prime Minister, who will host COP26 later this year, said every country needed to commit to substanital reductions by 2030. "And I absolutely convinced that we can do it by making commitments in four areas—coal, cars, cash and trees."
Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro: New Net Zero Target
Brazil has advanced its target to achieve net-zero emissions to 2050 from 2060 earlier, President Jair Bolsonaro said.
"Brazil today is already an example in energy generation. 83% of our energy comes from renewable sources," Bolsonaro said as he pitched Brazil as a viable investment destination for global capital. "The future of green jobs lies in Brazil."
At the upcoming COP26 conference we will pursue consensus on rules governing a carbon credit market and we do hope that industrialised countries will fulfill their committment to climate funding at substantial amounts.Jair Bolsonaro, President, Brazil
Bolsonaro also said his government is taking steps to curb illegal deforestation in the Amazon region. "Human resources and funding allocated to strengthening environmental institutions have been doubled with a view of totally eliminating illegal deforestation. The results of this important initiative are already visible. In the Amazon region we have seen a drop of 32% in deforestation in August as compared to last year."
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro at the UN General Assembly. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)
Norway's Erna Solberg: Focus On Oceans
While highlighting Norway's previously announced targets to reduce emissions, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said that to tackle climate change countries needed to come together and restore the health of oceans.
"Healthy and productive oceans can help us achieve the SDGs. We know what has to be done," Solberg said. "The High-level Panel for a sustainable ocean economy has presented an ambitious action agenda. This should form the basis for discussions on the oceans moving forward."
Without healthy oceans, we all face an uncertain future.Erna Solberg, Prime Minister, Norway
Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the UN General Assembly. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)
Solberg said that members of the Ocean Panel—Norway, Palau, Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau and Portugal—have peldged to sustainably manage all their ocean areas by 2025. "We call on all ocean and coastal states to make a similar commitment by 2030."
Vietnam's Nguyen Xuan Phuc: Developed Countries Must Do Their Part
President Nguyen Xuan Phuc called on developed countries to take the lead in reducing emissions while helping developing nations to make a transition to low-carbon economies.
"As we are heading towards the COP26 summit, we need to make every effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in which developed countries need to take the lead," he said. "Moreover, developing countries should receive further assistance in financing, technology transfer and capacity building, so as to reduce emissions and enhance disaster prevention and mitigation."
Vietnam President Nguyen Xuan Phuc. (Source: UN Media)
The Vietnam president called climate change a "non-traditional security challenge" that transcends borders and nations.
"Harsh weather conditions, sea-level rise, environmental pollution and biodiversity degradation are cumulative consequences of mankind's reckless quest for development," he said. “This is a shared opportunity for us to ensure the harmony between man and green nature.”
Estonia's Kersti Kaljulaid: Global Alliance For Environmental Data
President Kersti Kaljulaid announced the launch of a global alliance to bring countries together for improving the quality and accessibility of environmental data.
"The Data for Environmental Alliance would launch during the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly in February 2022," Kaljulaid said. "Since environmental problems are crossing national borders, we should do away with all borders when using environmental data."
Estonia President Kersti Kaljulaid. (Source: UN Media)
Estonia's strategy for data sharing includes developing common data standards which then can help develop digital solutions to tackling climate change. It would also improve environmental monitoring capacities and risks analysis methods, she said.
Kaljulaid also said countries should come together to find solutions to climate change with the same fervency they came together to develop vaccines against Covid-19. "If we fail, it will be marked as the beginning of an end."