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The Necessary Voice of the Global South

Summary:
The UN General Assembly meeting left its audience with a sense both of dire urgency and of déjà vu. At the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the UN must prove that it can translate calls for action – particularly those made by developing-country leaders – into real progress. MADRID – “We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres declared in his speech at the opening of the UN General Assembly’s high-level meeting for leaders of its 193 member countries. When it comes to two of those crises – climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic – it was the leaders of smaller and developing countries, rather than those of the world’s major powers,

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The UN General Assembly meeting left its audience with a sense both of dire urgency and of déjà vu. At the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the UN must prove that it can translate calls for action – particularly those made by developing-country leaders – into real progress.

MADRID – “We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres declared in his speech at the opening of the UN General Assembly’s high-level meeting for leaders of its 193 member countries. When it comes to two of those crises – climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic – it was the leaders of smaller and developing countries, rather than those of the world’s major powers, that had the most compelling stories to tell.

Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassoumi Massaoudou, for example, highlighted the “devastating effects” of climate change in his country. These include intensifying droughts, such as the one in 2010 that killed an estimated 4.8 million cattle – roughly 25% of the country’s herd – at a cost of more than $700 million.

Meanwhile, rising sea levels threaten to cause irreversible changes to the ecosystems of Pacific island countries, and even to submerge them completely. “Will Tuvalu remain a member state of the UN if it is finally submerged?” asked Prime Minister Kausea Natano.

The fact that developing countries are facing such immediate and existential threats highlights the moral imperative of effective climate cooperation. But developed economies should also be motivated by enlightened self-interest. The European Central Bank estimates that, without climate action, Europe’s GDP would shrink by 10%, causing a 30% rise in corporate defaults. And the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will threaten global food security.

But our chances of avoiding the worst effects of climate change are fading fast. According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions,...

Javier Solana
President of @ESADEgeo - Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics. Distinguished Fellow at @BrookingsInst.

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