Biden urges world co-operation to tackle threats of climate change and disease

US president sought to restore alliances shaken by recent missteps in speech to UN general assembly

US President Joe Biden told the United Nations General Assembly he would work with Congress to double funds for helping developing nations deal with climate change. Video: PBS

 

President Joe Biden urged the world to turn from conflict toward co-operation against the urgent threats of climate change and disease, seeking to shore up international alliances shaken by recent US foreign policy missteps.

“Instead of continuing to fight the wars of the past, we are fixing our eyes and devoting our resources to the challenges that hold the keys to our collective future,” Biden said Tuesday in his first speech to the United Nations general assembly in New York.

He described climate change and the continuing coronavirus pandemic as “urgent and looming crises wherein lie enormous opportunities,” if the globe can “work together to seize” them. He warned that the world will face further pandemics, and that without action on pollution, humanity will suffer “the merciless march of ever-worsening droughts and floods, more intense fires and hurricanes” and intensifying heat waves and sea-level rise.

White House officials depicted Biden’s speech as an opportunity to underscore the US’s commitment to restoring international institutions after former president Donald Trump’s “America first” approach, and focus global efforts to combat climate change and Covid-19.

Anger

But the president’s attempts to burnish US standing in the world have run headlong into growing anger in foreign capitals. Some foreign leaders were upset over the hasty withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan; France is outraged over a new defence alliance that calls for the US and the UK to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. The deal cost Paris a $66-billion ( €56-billion) contract to build Australia a diesel-powered submarine fleet.

In response, France recalled its ambassador from Washington on Friday. French leaders say they were blindsided by the US-Australia agreement. The White House has said it was Sydney’s obligation to inform France that it was ending their submarine deal.

Biden will meet with the prime ministers of Australia and the UK, Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson, later Tuesday. He and French president Emmanuel Macron, who is not attending the general assembly, are expected to talk by phone within days. The president again defended his Afghanistan withdrawal, and said the US “will continue to defend ourselves, our allies and our interests against attack, including terrorist threats. “But the mission must be clear and achievable,” he added, and “US military power must be our tool of last resort, not our first.” – Bloomberg