The United Nations General Assembly has been meeting this week to discuss various global issues. COVID-19 and climate change have been centered as the main topics of discussion.
President Biden delivered his debut address to leaders from around the world on Tuesday. Many have criticized his speech for its lack of sufficiency to showcase a sense of urgency regarding international climate aid to the Global South. On the other hand, UN Secretary General António Guterres warned leaders that we are standing on an “edge of an abyss,” caused by policy choices of the wealthiest countries.
Guterres said, “This is a planetary emergency. Our world has never been more threatened, or more divided.”
Guterres cited the different climate crises around the world – from famine in Madagascar to wildfires around the world. He explained that the governments of wealthy countries are still subsidizing fossil fuel companies that contribute significantly to climate change. The wealthy countries are not doing what they should be – even many of the most “green” countries in the world – in Scandinavia – outsource their fuel and pollution to the Global South.
The Secretary General further emphasized that the low vaccination rate in low-income countries is a vaccine apartheid. Wealthy countries have been able to hoard and waste vaccines that could go towards eradicating coronavirus throughout the world. Guterres demanded that vaccine doses should reach at least 70% of the world’s population by the middle of 2022.
Guterres even evoked comparisons to certain billionaires by saying, “Billionaires joyriding to space while millions go hungry on Earth,” only serves to worsen “malady of mistrust.”
Although Guterres’ words are strong and heavily needed at a time like this, the UN is unfortunately unable to actually execute any of these hardened words – the UN exists as a failed toothpiece for the wealthy, populous, and influential hegemons to assert their influence. The United States, Russia, France, the UK, and China have the power to veto any resolution. These countries also make up higher-income or imperial nations, meaning that the UN exists as nothing more than a mouthpiece and performance for world leaders to feel as if they are accomplishing something. When millions of millions of people around the world will feel the effects of climate change and the increasing effects of the COVID pandemic, will world leaders then try to solve the problem? Or will they continue to hoard themselves in wealth, as they already do?