UNGA 2020: world leaders call for Green recovery from Covid-19

Heads of state and government call for action on climate change at UN roundtable

In this photo provided by the United Nations, Alpha Conde, president of Guinea, speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, at UN headquarters in New York. The U.N.'s first virtual meeting of world leaders started Tuesday with pre-recorded speeches from some of the planet's biggest powers, kept at home by the coronavirus pandemic that will likely be a dominant theme at their video gathering this year. (Eskinder Debebe/UN Photo via AP)
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World leaders at a UN summit have called for the Covid-19 recovery to focus on green solutions, almost five years on from the Paris climate agreement.

Heads of state and government from the UK, Chile, Niger, Fiji, Italy and Canada met the UN Secretary General, the head of the EU and business leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

The effects of the pandemic and the threat of climate change have loomed large over proceedings at the General Assembly, which has been held online because of coronavirus restrictions.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres opened proceedings, saying renewable energy could deliver three times as many jobs as fossil fuels.

“Covid-19 recovery packages need to accelerate the de-carbonisation of the global economy," Mr Guterres said.

Sightline with Tim Marshall - UNGA in the midst of Covid pandemic

Sightline with Tim Marshall - UNGA in the midst of Covid pandemic

“If we continue on our current path, the scale of suffering around the world due to climate disruption will go beyond all of our imagination."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will co-host an event with the UN on December 12 to mark the five-year anniversary of the Paris Accord, said Covid-19 presented a chance to build a new, green future.

Mr Johnson said the UK’s emissions were down between 8 and 10 per cent on previous years, but that had been achieved amid the “appalling economic shock” of Covid-19.

“Our people aren’t moving, cars aren't travelling and our industry isn't producing emissions in the way that it normally would," he said.

"And that's why now is the moment for us all to work together on the way forward.

“We're taking steps to ensure that the UK economy can bounce back better, build back bolder, build back better, but above all, build back greener.”

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, repeated the EU’s commitment to make the continent climate-neutral by 2050 and to invest hundreds of billions of euros in climate goals.

“I am determined for the European Union to work together with all our partners across the world,” Ms von der Leyen said.

“We want to show the responsible green transition will be good for people and for business. We want to show its attraction and benefit for every nation."

Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou highlighted the effect of climate change on the desert nations of the Sahel.

“These extreme climate events have once again attested to the fact that climate change poses a real threat to our shared home Earth and poses a real threat to our civilisation, specifically in the Sahel region,” Mr Issoufou said.

“Here in the Sahel region, more than 67 million people live in vulnerable areas that have been afflicted by both soil erosion and desertification.

"These trends have been compounded by the fact that agriculture represents the cornerstone of the economies.”

He called for greater assistance for African nations in the battle against climate change, saying the continent had the lowest levels of greenhouse emissions.