NEW YORK: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the developed world to take urgent action on climate change. He warned that countries that played the least part in causing the climate crisis are the ones now facing the prospect of paying the steepest price.
Speaking on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York, where the 76th session of the General Assembly is taking place, Johnson said a number of world leaders who attended a behind-closed-doors meeting he convened had presented “very powerful” arguments suggesting the developed world must take urgent action on climate change.
“We heard from some of the countries staring down the barrel — the Maldives, Bangladesh, the Marshall Islands — countries pleading with the developed world to step up to the plate and supply the finance needed to make the changes necessary to fight climate change in the developing world,” he said.
“It is the developing world that is bearing the brunt of catastrophic climate change in the form of hurricanes and fires and floods, and the real, long-term economic damage they face. Yet it is the developed world that, over 200 years, has put the carbon in the atmosphere that is causing the acceleration of this climate change.”
The British PM said there are “faint signs of progress” from some developed countries that are beginning to take action, but that the US is in the best position to send out a clear signal that developed, Western nations are willing to act.
Long-term financing to help countries to grow without further contributing to harmful climate change is one of the cornerstones of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Developed countries pledged as part of that deal to contribute $100 billion a year toward funding for this until 2025.
That target was missed in 2019 and 2020 — and, according to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, this year’s fundraising effort looks likely to fall about $20 billion short.
Johnson said that there has been some progress toward achieving this financial goal, however, and that the US could make a “huge difference” to the efforts. An American contribution would send a “massively powerful signal to the world, to the developing countries, that we in the industrialized West do take this seriously,” he said.
Both Johnson and Guterres emphasized the key role that creative and sustainable financing — by those wealthy countries that can best afford it — can play in tackling climate change.
“Developed nations need to step up,” said Guterres. “Many asset owners and managers and other financial institutions are now shifting their investments toward a decarbonized, sustainable and resilient economy.
“But these private-finance flows will not cover the immediate needs of the many countries that need support now, or who cannot borrow money because of their debt burden.”
Therefore “increased support from international financial institutions is also crucial,” he added.
Earlier, leaders from a number of countries provided details of their plans to address climate change, while also developing their economies and civil societies.
They included Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who said Monday’s meeting came at a “crucial time for the world.”
He reiterated Egypt’s support for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of interlinked global targets relating to issues such as climate, poverty, education, healthcare and gender equality that are designed to be a blueprint for a better and more sustainable future.
“In addition to sustainable development we need to increase growth and eliminate poverty and unemployment,” El-Sisi said. “But we also have the complex political situation in very many areas of the world, and we also have climate change and its devastating impact on water and food security.”
These challenges must be addressed in a “comprehensive and sustainable” way, he said, adding that he will prioritize “the interests of the Egyptian citizen” — but that this approach is also in line with the aims of the SDGs.
He cautioned, however, that African countries have been struggling with a decline in the flow of international development aid throughout the pandemic.
“In that context, we hope to see a continuance of this important international effort, so that we can achieve our common goals and create a better future for future generations,” said El-Sisi.