UNGA & Climate Change

The end of September brings world leaders to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Though the leaders speak out on many issues during the annual gathering, I focused on the media coverage of the UNGA concerning Climate Change.

Al Jazeera: Verge of the abyss’: Climate change to dominate UNGA talks

In this article, Al Jazeera framed this year’s UNGA as a critical juncture in the Climate Crisis. The report utilized several archival videos from their original reporting to highlight specific issues. It featured quotes from principals like UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about expectations for this year’s General Assembly. This article set the stage and raised the stakes for the 2021 UNGA by putting world leaders on the record and affording a platform to academics and activists. The following appeared in the website version of the article:

What counts most is what happens in six weeks in Glasgow” , said Jonathan Overpeck, Dean of Environment at the University of Michigan. “[But] the more that can be agreed upon early, the easier it will be to get the commitments that are needed to put an end to climate change… We’re not yet on an emissions reductions path that is safe for our planet and its people.”

The Guardian: Boris Johnson tells UN that Cop26 must be “turning point for humanity”

In his address to the UNGA, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson put world leaders and the whole of civilization on notice:

“We believe that someone else will clear up the mess we make because that is what someone else has always done,” he said. “We trash our habitats again and again with the inductive reasoning that we have got away with it so far, and therefore we will get away with it again…My friends, the adolescence of humanity is coming to an end…we must come together in a collective coming of age.”

This coverage was significant for two reasons. In November, the next UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP26) will be held in Scotland. Great Britain is the host and wants to lead on this issue. Also, as a conservative politician, media darling, and former climatic skeptic, Johnson’s sense of urgency may carry weight with people on that side of the aisle. However, perhaps not from this coverage since The Guardian’s readership generally skews to the left.

India Today: Climate crisis dominates UNGA: US to increase funds, China says no more coal-fired power projects abroad

This article is the first of two from the media conglomerate India Today. Here readers get a recap of the week’s events and some framing of the significant announcements by President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. I’ve included this example because India Today did a fine job in reporting what happened – “Biden pledged to double Climate Fund contributions” and the why it happened in a double-barreled fact check:

“An Oxfam report, released days ahead of the UNGA, showed that wealthy nations are expected to fall up to $75 billion short of fulfilling their long-standing pledge to mobilise $100 billion each year. An analysis by the World Resources Institute shows that even with the US increasing its climate aid commitment to $11.4 billion by 2024, it pales in comparison to the $24.5 billion that the EU spent on climate aid in 2019.”

India Today: ‘Death sentence’: Low-lying nations implore faster action on climate at UN

This second India Today report was one of very few to provide in-depth coverage of the issues the island and low-lying nations raised at this year’s UNGA. It is a sad commentary that those most vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change, with the greatest urgency for solutions, are practically ignored by many major media outlets. The existential threat and increasing desperation are evident in this section of the report:

Guyana President Irfaan Ali criticized large polluters for not delivering on promises to curb emissions, accusing them of “deception” and “failure” and warning that climate change will kill far more people than the COVID-19 pandemic. “We hold out similar hope that the world’s worst emitters of greenhouse gases that are affecting the welfare of all mankind will also come to the realization that, in the end, it will profit them little to emerge king over a world of dust” Ali told world leaders on Thursday.

CNN: Young people rally at climate protests around the world

This collection of 19 short dispatches from the worldwide Climate Strike is an excellent example of what CNN can do best (and other media outlets often choose to ignore.) They have correspondents on the ground, talking to individuals, reporting on events, and connecting related issues, like oil pipelines, fires, and floods that affect communities globally. This page also featured live coverage on the event day, Friday, September 24, 2021. The actions coincided with the UNGA to let world leaders know that their steps are welcomed but fall far short of what is necessary. The following quote appeared in the body of one such post from this webpage.

“Today, millions go to the streets to tell leaders they cannot fake climate action with empty rhetoric. The US’ announcement on climate finance and China’s announcement on coal are essential, but they are not enough,” Eddy Pérez, international climate diplomacy manager with Climate Action Network Canada, said in a statement on Friday.

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