What world leaders had to say at the UN General Assembly

Catch up on speeches by various world leaders at the UN General Assembly, setting out plans for topical issues such as climate change, COVID-19 and international collaboration.
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5 min read
UN

Leaders of nations from around the world came together to lay out plans on important political, social, environmental and economic issues to achieve international goals and objectives that have been agreed upon.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

The Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, focussed his speech on the climate emergency, vaccination uptake as well as food and drink shortages.

Johnson doubled down on his climate change promises by iterating that:

“The world – this precious blue sphere with its eggshell crust and wisp of an atmosphere – is not some indestructible toy, some bouncy plastic romper room against which we can hurl ourselves to our heart’s content.” “Daily, weekly, we are doing such irreversible damage that long before a million years are up, we will have made this beautiful planet effectively uninhabitable – not just for us but for many other species. And that is why the Glasgow COP26 summit is the turning point for humanity. We must limit the rise in temperatures – whose appalling effects were visible even this summer – to 1.5 degrees.” He went on to describe the UK’s climate change achievements such as harnessing power from wind and solar, as well as other eco-friendly ways to store power, such as hydrogen energy stored in batteries.

He said that if the rate of emissions keep rising as they are now, then temperatures will increase by 2.7 degrees by the end of the 21st century. And as a result, we will see ‘desertification, drought, crop failure, and mass movements of humanity on a scale not seen before, not because of some unforeseen natural event or disaster, but because of us, because of what we are doing now’, Johnson said.

He also spoke of the COP26 conference, where nations lay out their plans to meet emissions targets, which will be hosted in Glasgow this year.

Johnson also mentioned the expanding market of electric vehicles within the UK, with car manufacturer Nissan planning on investing £1bn into a new EV factory and a separate gigafactory to produce batteries. Electric vehicles and electric charging points was something Johnson was keen about when he was Mayor of London.

He also revealed the UK was working towards producing the first carbon-free passenger plane, called ‘JetZero’. Johnson also looked back at Britain’s historic past. England was one of the first to plump emissions into the air during the Industrial Revolution in 1868, where cities were covered with thick smoke as the number of factories within the country duplicated quickly to manufacture various goods.

He concluded his speech by reiterating the UK’s pledge to tackle climate change by expanding use of electric vehicles, renewable sources of energy and other ways to reduce emissions within the country.

Joe Biden, President of the United States of America

US President Joe Biden also pointed out that climate change is a vital issue. He also addressed issues such as collaborating internationally to end the COVID-19 pandemic, human rights and the future of technology.

“Instead of continuing to fight the wars of the past, we are fixing our eyes on devoting our resources to the challenges that hold the keys to our collective future: ending this pandemic; addressing the climate crisis; managing the shifts in global power dynamics; shaping the rules of the world on vital issues like trade, cyber, and emerging technologies; and facing the threat of terrorism as it stands today”, Biden said in an address to the UN General Assembly.

Biden also gave a nod to the AUKUS partnership by referencing the US’s deeper ties with the Indo-Pacific, in order to collaborate on global challenges such as the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Biden said since his premiership the US has strengthened ties with over international organisations such as NATO and the European Union.

The President also reaffirmed the US’ pledge on climate change as he spoke about the US reentering the Paris Climate Agreement, which his predecessor Donald Trump pulled out of during his presidency. Biden also revealed plans for the US bidding to retake a seat on the Human Rights Council in the UN.

“U.S. military power must be our tool of last resort, not our first, and it should not be used as an answer to every problem we see around the world. Indeed, today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed through the force of arms. Bombs and bullets cannot defend against COVID-19 or its future variants.”

The US President also said:

“And tomorrow, at the U.S.-hosted Global 19 — COVID-19 Summit, I’ll be announcing additional commitments as we seek to advance the fight against COVID-19 and hold ourselves accountable around specific targets on three key challenges: saving lives now, vaccinating the world, and building back better.”

Biden also made further remarks:

“We’ll meet terrorist threats that arise today and in the future with a full range of tools available to us, including working in cooperation with local partners so that we need not be so reliant on large-scale military deployments.

One of the most important ways we can effectively enhance security and reduce violence is by seeking to improve the lives of the people all over the world who see that their governments are not serving their needs.

Corruption fuels inequality, siphons off a nation’s resources, spreads across borders, and generates human suffering. It is nothing less than a national security threat in the 21st century.”

“And together with the private sector and our G7 partners, we aim to mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment. We also — we’ll also continue to be the world’s largest contributor to humanitarian assistance, bringing food, water, shelter, emergency healthcare, and other vital, lifesaving aid to millions of people in need.”

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