76th session of the UN General Assembly begins in New York; focus on climate change and vaccine equity 

Secretary General Antonio Guterres asked rich countries to deliver on their promise to provide USD 100 billion annually to help developing countries in their fight against climate change

September 21, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Photo: Xinhua

The 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly began on Monday, September 20, in New York. It is the first session since the pandemic started, with most member country heads joining to discuss various issues such as climate change and COVID-19.

The session is expected to discuss global climate change issues in detail before the crucial UN climate change conference (COP26) in November in Glasgow, Scotland. On Monday, the UK hosted the Informal Climate Leaders Roundtable on Climate Action, held behind closed doors with around 40 nations at the UN headquarters. 

Following the meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres asked the rich countries to deliver on USD 100 billion a year promised in the Paris agreement to help the developing countries fight against climate change. He said that the rich nations failed to meet their promise in 2019 and 2020, and further “failure to fulfill this pledge would be a major source of trust between developed and developing countries.”

A report published last week by the UN said that though the US and European Union finally set tougher emission cutting targets in 2020, as agreed in the Paris conference (COP21), there are major emitters such as China, India, and Saudi Arabia who are yet to do so. The US and European Union are the world’s second and third-largest emitters after China. 

The report also argued that under the current pledges, the world will see 16% more emissions in 2030 than the levels in 2010. Climate scientists say that to control climate change, the world needs to emit 45% less than what it did in 2010. With the present emissions levels, the global temperature will be 2.7 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels, resulting in disastrous consequences.     

On Friday, the UN will also hold its first global meeting on renewable energy since 1981. 

Vaccine equity and SDGs

The UNGA session is also expected to discuss global vaccine inequality and the UN’s COVAX initiative’s failure to deliver vaccines to the world’s poorer regions. At an event on Monday called the SDG Moment of the Decade of Action, Guterres emphasized the relevance of the Sustainable Development Goals, which have fallen off track due to the COVID-19 outbreak and other reasons. He asked the world to take ambitious actions to deliver the goals as promised by 2030. 

SDGs are the global targets related to reducing poverty, better health care and other human development indexes adopted by the UN in 2015 to achieve sustainable development for all. 

Guterres has asked the world to double the production of vaccines to meet the target of vaccinating at least 70% of the world’s population by the middle of next year in a document released earlier this month called “our common agenda.” He also asked for more investments in human development worldwide for faster recovery from the COVID-19 related recession.   

The leaders are also expected to respond to the UN’s call for greater engagements with the Taliban government in Afghanistan to avoid humanitarian crises. The fate of the military coup regime in Myanmar is also high on the agenda in the meeting.