As fears about the global environment and the Covid-19 pandemic dominated the first day of world leaders addressing the annual United Nations General Assembly, Joe Biden and Xi Jinping increased their efforts to assist other nations in addressing climate change.
In his speech Tuesday morning, President Biden announced that the United States would double financial support to assist developing countries in dealing with climate change, bringing the world closer to the $100 billion annual targets sought ahead of a climate conference in Scotland next month.
“Making these bold investments isn’t just good climate policy; it’s an opportunity for each of our countries to invest in ourselves and our future,” Biden said.
Moments later, in a pre-recorded video, Xi stated that China will stop building coal-fired power plants abroad, a long-desired step by climate scientists.
“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.
It must have been unclear whether it intended that China would withdraw from all involvement in coal-fired power plants, including financing. During a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian stated that he would try to learn more about Xi’s plan from relevant departments.
The actions of the world’s two largest economies demonstrated the importance of climate change as governments around the world face mounting costs from weather extremes.
Proceeding the emphasis on climate, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he will submit the Paris climate agreement to his country’s parliament for approval, while Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said rising global temperatures would be a “death sentence” for his island nation.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised the announcements by Biden and Xi Tuesday but said in a statement that “we still have a long way to go” to ensure the conference next month “marks a turning point in our collective efforts to address the climate crisis.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised Biden and Xi’s announcements on Tuesday, but added that “we still have a long way to go” to make sure the conference next month “marks a turning point in our collective efforts to address the climate crisis.”
In remarks earlier Tuesday, Guterres warned that the world is on the verge of ecological disaster and that the “climate alarm bells” are “ringing at fever pitch.” He predicted a “hellscape of temperature rises” if emissions are not reduced more than currently planned.
“We are weeks away from the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, but seemingly light-years away from reaching our targets,” Guterres said. “We must get serious. And we must act fast.”
This week, world leaders are meeting in New York against the backdrop of a world that is increasingly polarising.
Even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson seemed taken aback by the good news: the United States’ decision to relax travel restrictions for foreigners who can show proof of vaccination. European countries have long urged the United States to lower travel restrictions.
“Perhaps one image narrates the story of our times: the image we’ve seen from some parts of the world of Covid-19 vaccines in the garbage, expired and unused,” he said. “It’s a heinous crime.”
Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova delivered a video address to the General Assembly in which she urged the international community to stand up, particularly for girls and women in Afghanistan, where the Taliban-led government that has taken power has been condemned for its harsh human rights record since the 1990s.
“Over the past two decades, girls and women in Afghanistan could exercise their legitimate rights,” she said. “These must not be taken away.”