A year after thousands of young people marched to the United Nations (UN) headquarter in New York demanding climate action, some things have changed. During this year’s General Assembly that is taking place remotely, climate action is a part of the conversation. But some things have remained the same. When it came to allocating money and announcing drastic systemic changes that climate action needs, world leaders fell short.
On Tuesday as representatives from around the world discussed ways to help finance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – targets aimed at improving access to health, education and sanitation, among others – the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the conversation.
The high-level meeting convened by UN secretary-general António Guterres on September 29, together with the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, involved talks about policy actions and solutions to advance the devastating social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
Nearly one million people lost their lives due to the pandemic and there are over 32 million confirmed cases globally. It is expected to drive close to 100 million to extreme poverty, the first such increase since 1998. An estimated additional 265 million people could face acute food shortages by the end of 2020, according to the UN.
Even for developing countries that have not been directly affected by the virus, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the financial distress as export, tourism and remittance receipts have all dried up. This threatens their ability to meet existing debt payments.