President Joe Biden addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Image Credit: NYT

Over the past several days, leaders from around the world have been addressing the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly, setting out their agendas for the year to come and pledging to tackle together the problems that face the international community. This year, those speeches have an added element of importance, with two critical and pressing issues dominating the annual session — issues that affect us all now.

In six weeks’ time, Cop 26 takes place in Glasgow. The gathering is our last best chance to commit to policies that can at least partially reverse the dramatic global warming that is affecting how we live on this planet. The decisions made there will determine the future course of our planet with significant and serious ramifications for ourselves, our children and future generations.

As leader after leader noted during the speeches to the General Assembly, there is no more time left — we need real action on climate change, we need nations to live up to their words to reverse climate damage, we need all to focus on reducing carbon emissions so our Earth can at least cope if never heal from the damage we have inflicted upon it.

US President Joe Biden has committed his nation to doubling its financial pledge to help poorer nations recover from climate change. At least $100 billion is needed, and Cop26 will need to firm up those numbers by early November. But the fight against climate change is about far more than money. It is about making changes that are meaningful, cutting emissions, changing the way we live, changing the planet for the better. And those are changes that every leader and nation at the General Assembly must commit to. Even China has committed to ending the development of coal plants overseas.

As pressing as climate change is, so too is coronavirus. These past 20 months have shown us that mass vaccinations offer the best way forward, allowing people to largely resume life resembling normality once jabbed against the virus.

Just as with the climate, inequality remains a pressing issue. The reality of the vaccines’ roll-out is that wealthier nations have produced and acquired far more doses of vaccines than poorer ones. Europeans are more than 70 per cent fully vaccinated, Africans only 3 per cent. That is a disparity that is unconscionable. Simply put, vaccines must be shared as a matter of criticality. World leaders must commit to greater vaccine equality as a matter of urgency. Yes, vaccines — and climate.