On Sunday, 10 January, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres began his first virtual official visit to the United Kingdom to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the first Session of the United Nations General Assembly, which took place in London’s Central Hall, in Westminster.
Speaking at the commemorative event, entitled “We the Peoples”, the Secretary-General said that throughout its history, the General Assembly has helped to boost global health, literacy and living standards, and to promote human rights and gender equality. Turning to the challenges of our time, he reiterated his call for a global new deal as well as a new social contract between people, Governments, the private sector and civil society to tackle the roots of inequality.
“We need a networked multilateralism,” Mr. Guterres said, urging global and regional organizations to communicate and work together towards common goals. Concluding on an optimistic note, the Secretary-General expressed confidence that, together, the planet can emerge from COVID-19 and lay the foundations for a cleaner, safer, fairer world for all, and for generations to come. [See Press Release SG/SM/20528.]
On Monday, 11 January, the visit focused on climate change. The United Kingdom is hosting the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), now scheduled to take place in November 2021, in Glasgow. The Secretary-General delivered remarks at the “COP26 Virtual Roundtable on Clean Power Transition”. He also attended an event designed to showcase and generate more commitments and action to accelerate the transition to renewable, affordable and resilient power systems in African and European countries, as well as the importance of a just transition to ensure green job opportunities. He was joined by the United Kingdom’s First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Dominic Raab; the Conference’s incoming President, Alok Sharma; and representatives from several countries.
The Secretary-General said that in order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the world needs an urgent transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Developing countries also need particular support in facilitating that shift. He reiterated his appeal to developed nations to fulfil their longstanding pledge to provide $100 billion per year for developing countries to support mitigation and adaptation.
In addition, he called on the World Bank, the African Development Bank and national development banks to develop financial instruments that can reduce investment risks and attract private capital to African countries, while emphasizing that Africa remains highly vulnerable to climate risks and requires more investment in adaptation. [See Press Release SG/SM/20530.]
During a bilateral meeting also held on 11 January, the Secretary-General thanked the Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his country’s support to the United Nations, as well as for the United Kingdom’s political and financial leadership in the fight against the pandemic.
The Secretary-General also held bilateral meetings with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, COP26 President Alok Sharma and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is a member of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. The Secretary-General also met with Charles, Prince of Wales, to discuss the issue of climate change. To mark the United Nations seventy-fifth anniversary, the lawn located at the front of London’s Queen Elizabeth II Centre, in Westminster, was renamed “United Nations Green”.