UN chief calls for global vaccine equality and warns of further Covid mutations

Antonio Guterres says world is running out of time to tackle climate change

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 08, 2020 United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the African Union headquarters during the 33rd African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on January 15, 2021 deplored the "heart-wrenching milestone" of the global death toll from Covid-19 topping two million, and lamented the fact that "solidarity is failing" in the world's response to the virus.
"Today we are seeing a vaccine vacuum," the UN head said. "Vaccines are reaching high income countries quickly, while the world's poorest have none at all."
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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said developing nations must be given greater access to coronavirus vaccines and that the ‘moment of truth’ for tackling climate change was approaching.

Mr Guterres said the world must work together to overcome its "fragilities" during a speech at the World Economic Forum on Monday.

"We have reached a moment of truth. In 2021, we must address these fragilities and put the world on track," he told the virtual summit.

Mr Guterres said developing nations have missed out on crucial coronavirus vaccines that have mostly gone to rich countries, and he urged a greater pooling of resources.

He stated there is a “clear, real danger” of further mutations which would make the virus more lethal or transmissible. Without a co-ordinated vaccine effort, he said, the world will be unable to eradicate Covid-19, which could return like the flu each year as vaccine-resistant strains emerge.

"If developed countries think they will be safe if they vaccinate their own people while neglecting the developing world, they are wrong", he said. “Vaccines must be seen as global public goods — people’s vaccines.”

Vaccine production must be greatly scaled up around the world at cheaper prices, Mr Guterres added.

He again called for debt relief for all countries that need it, "so that no one is forced to choose between providing basic services for their people or servicing their debts."

The UN chief also said a Covid-19 recovery must help “end our war against nature, avert climate catastrophe and restore our planet.”

Mr Guterres said a central objective for 2021 is building a global coalition for carbon neutrality.

“Every country, city, financial institution and company needs to adopt credible plans backed by intermediate goals for transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050 and to take decisive action now to put themselves on the right path,” he said.

In addition, Mr Guterres said governments must stop subsidising fossil fuels and that private enterprise could aid economic recovery, pointing to the rapid development of vaccines as a blueprint.

"We must end perverse subsidies for fossil fuels ... We must put a price on carbon," he said. "We must commit to no new coal-fired power plants and massively invest in renewable energy ... We need to flick the 'green switch.'"

"We count on businesses to play an important role by themselves and to put pressure on governments to do the right thing," he said. "We need you more than ever to help us change course, end fragility, avert climate catastrophe and build the equitable and sustainable future we want and we need."

Guterres also reiterated his concerns about a "great fracture" with the United States and China, split by different dominant currencies, trade and financial rules, internet, as well as geopolitical and military strategies.

"We must do everything possible to avert such a division," he said.