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World leaders return to UN with focus on pandemic, climate

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The UN Headquarters in New York.
The UN Headquarters in New York.

UN: World leaders are returning to the United Nations in New York this week with a focus on boosting efforts to fight both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, which last year forced them to send video statements for the annual gathering.

As the coronavirus still rages amid an inequitable vaccine rollout, about a third of the 193 UN states are planning to again send videos, but presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers for the remainder are due to travel to the United States.

The United States tried to dissuade leaders from coming to New York in a bid to stop the UN General Assembly from becoming a “super-spreader event,” although President Joe Biden will address the assembly in person, his first UN visit since taking office. A so-called UN honour system means that anyone entering the assembly hall effectively declares they are vaccinated, but they do not have to show proof.

This system will be broken when the first country speaks – Brazil. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is a vaccine sceptic, who last week declared that he does not need the shot because he is already immune after being infected with COVID-19.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Reuters that the discussions around how many traveling diplomats might have been immunized illustrated “how dramatic the inequality is today in relation to vaccination.” He is pushing for a global plan to vaccinate 70% of the world by the first half of next year.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Guterres pointed to Biden’s efforts and an International Monetary Fund proposal to create a $50 billion vaccine program for poorer countries as “positive signs” rich countries were starting to tackle vaccine inequity.

“But let’s be clear: all this is too little, too late,” he added.

As scientists warn that global warming is dangerously close to spiralling out of control, the UN COP26 conference aims to wring much more ambitious climate action and the money to go with it from participants around the globe. “It’s time to read the alarm bell,” Guterres said last week. “We are on the verge of the abyss.” – INDIA TODAY

Tuesday, September 21, 2021 – 01:00

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