Covid-19, climate change centrepiece of Ardern's speech to UN

Source: 1 NEWS

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed two big global issues facing the planet, the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change, in her speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

Jacinda Ardern addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September 2021.

In a pre-recorded statement for those gathered in New York, Ardern said the virus was a "complex, global problem" which required a global solution. 

"No community, nation, or region acting alone can address Covid-19," she stated.

Equitable access to safe and effective vaccines was "essential" to the world's response and recovery to the virus. 

"Without equitable access for all, we risk further variants developing which could undermine or undo our progress," Ardern warned the leaders gathered.

She said the virus had "exacerbated and further complicated" existing global challenges. Climate change was one of these and demanded action. 

"The pandemic has been the ultimate disrupter. It has changed our realities, and given us cause to pause and reflect. In the disruption is an opportunity for us to reset. To adjust some of our fundamental settings to put us in a better position to respond to our shared challenges," Ardern said. 

"We have heard so much about ‘building back better’. We must do better ..."

Ardern described climate change as "one of the most pervasive crises of our time" and said global warming must be limited to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. 

Anything else was "unacceptable". 

New Zealand had placed climate change at the heart of its legislation and she encouraged others to do the same.

"The climate crisis cannot be beaten through incrementalism. The science demands that we do so much more."

Ardern's address also touched on biodiversity loss, which she said would accelerate climate change and make its impacts worse. 

Tackling it required leaders to "work across barriers and silos".

In the latter part of her address she said both the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change had exacerbated extreme poverty and the instability of food systems.

Leaders and representatives gathered at the United Nations General Assembly listen as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses them remotely.

Open trade was central to this and tackling growing humanitarian need was necessary in order to prevent conflict and build peace.

As the leaders of the US, Japan, Australia and India met for the first in-person summit for the Quad Indo-Pacific alliance, Ardern made the following remarks on peace: "And where peace fails, we must all do our part to strengthen and improve respect for the laws of armed conflict, and to enhance the protection of civilians.

"Preventing both the use of illegal weapons, and the illegal use of legal weapons, is essential, as is ensuring there is no impunity for any such use.

"This work is a shared responsibility, and one which we pursue alongside our tireless efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons and the spectre of a conflict that no one can recover from."

Quad's meeting came just over a week after the US announced a security pact — AUKUS  — with UK and Australia. It will allow the US and UK to help Australia get nuclear-powered submarines.

Ardern said at the time New Zealand's position on nuclear-powered vessels in its waters remained unchanged — they're not welcome. 

The prime minister's closing of her UN speech touched on the importance of sticking to collective action and continuing to work with one another for a better future. 

Ardern warned leaders faced a choice — to approach "shared challenges from a place of fear, hoping to protect narrowly defined interests by turning inwards" or "reaffirm our trust in cooperation, understanding that our greatest fears can only be tackled by concerted collective action". 

She remarked their forebears had chosen the path of trust and founded the UN, in facing the same fork in the road the world now did. 

"If there is any lesson we can draw from the events of the past 18 months, it is the need for more, and better, cooperation. And with the need for better cooperation, comes the need for responsive and adaptive global institutions, including the United Nations.

"As leaders, we have the power to shape our shared institutions and to make them fit for purpose. We must not shy away from this task," Ardern said.

"I can think of no better way to reaffirm our kindness towards one another, our shared humanity, and our unity.

"I hope you will join us."