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COVID-19 And Climate Change – World Leaders’ Focus On Their Return To UN

This week, the world leaders are coming back to the United Nations in New York with a focus on augmenting the efforts to fight the effects of climate change as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, which compelled them to turn virtual on last year’s annual meeting forcing them to send video statements instead. 

Since the Covid-19 pandemic wreaks havoc worldwide amid an inequitable roll-out of vaccines, about a third of the 193 UN states are planning to send videos again. However, the other remaining presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers are expected to travel to the United States.

The United States attempted to discourage leaders from coming to New York as a way to prevent a “super-spreader event” during  the UN General Assembly. However, President Joe Biden will still address the assembly in person, in his first UN visit since being elected as president.

Anyone who comes to the assembly hall effectively declares they are fully-vaccinated in a so-called UN honor system. However, they need not show any proof. 

But this system is bound to be broken during the first country, Brazil’s, speech. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is reluctant with the vaccine. Just last week, he said he is not in need of the vaccine as he already gained immunity after getting infected with Covid-19

However, New York has prepared a van outside the UN to provide free testing and free single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine shots for the week. 

According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the discourse about home many immunized diplomats that are coming to the assembly shows “how dramatic the inequality is today in relation to vaccination.” His plan is to achieve a 70 per cent global vaccination turnout by the first half of next year.

Only 2% out of 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered around the world have been sent in Africa. To augment the global distribution of vaccines, Biden will host a virtual meeting from Washington with leaders and chief executives on Wednesday. 

Biden is set to be in New York for only about 24 hours. He will be meeting with Guterres on Monday to show the Covid-19 concerns of the US about the UN gathering. On Tuesday, he will make his first UN address right after Bolsonaro.  

According to Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Biden’s UN envoy, he would “speak to our top priorities: ending the Covid-19 pandemic; combating climate change … and defending human rights, democracy, and the international rules-based order.”

Because of the pandemic, restrictions are in place such as lower number of UN delegations and most of the events on the sidelines will either be virtual or a mix of virtual and in person. Topics about Afghanistan and Iran are included in the other topics that ministers are expected to discuss during the week.

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However before the start of the annual speeches, Guterres and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will jumpstart the week with a summit on Monday to try and save a UN summit, set to kick off in Glasgow, Scotland on October 31, from failure.

With the scientists’ warning on global warming critically close to getting out of control, the UN COP26 conference plans to devise more ambitious climate actions and the funds to go with it from participants worldwide.

“It’s time to read the alarm bell,” according to Guterres. “We are on the verge of the abyss.”

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