Heads of state will take to the podium next week at the first in-person United Nations General Assembly since 2019. The meeting takes place amidst a multitude of global crises and challenges facing global leaders including climate impacts, rising energy prices, inflation and food insecurity.

Those expected to speak at the High level segment, which begins on Tuesday 20th, include French President Emmanuel Macron, UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, US President Biden, Japanese PM Fumio Kishida as well as Cyril Ramaphosa and Kenya’s newly elected president William Ruto.

Many will be arriving bleary-eyed straight after the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II which takes place on Monday in London. A notable exception is China’s leader Xi Jinping who incidentally travels to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan this week but is not expected to land in NY.

In a press conference earlier this week Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General had strong words for world leaders before their arrival in NY. In visceral words he said “The solidarity envisioned in the United Nations Charter is being devoured by the acids of nationalism and self-interest. By a shocking disregard for the poorest and most vulnerable in our world”. Guterres recently visited Pakistan’s worst flood affected areas and is expected to read the climate riot act to global leaders.

Loss and Damage

With UNGA seen as one of the key diplomatic events ahead of COP27 leaders of small Island, states are expected to launch an eight-week campaign in NY to get loss and damage on the agenda for the summit in Egypt. They’ve planned a series of meetings in New York to drum up support. Ahead of the meetings next week Ambassador Walton Webson, chair of the 39-nation Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said in a statement “We have run out of time to waste – our islands are being hit with more severe and more frequent climate impacts and recovery comes at the cost of our development,”. The General Assembly he said was a time to “make things right”.

One to watch next week is Mia Mottley’s speech at the Kofi Annan lecture on Wednesday 23rd. The Barbados PM, who struck chords at COP26 last year, is among several Caribbean leaders expected to make the case for new finance flows to at-risk nations. Mottley last year proposed the IMF release $500bn of new funds for vulnerable countries. Expect further detail on this.

With the recent devastating floods in Pakistan many questions remain over financing for loss and damage across the regions. A recent report from the Africa Development Bank said Africa could be losing up to 15% of GDP a year from climate impacts. Existing funding flows from OECD donors and development banks are well off track according to the Climate Policy Institute.

Vanuatu – International Court of Justice

The tiny island of Vanuatu, which recently submitted its updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC will be in New York to highlight its campaign for the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on climate’s impact on human rights. Even though a decision is not expected until 2023 the momentum behind the call is growing in the wake of the worsening impacts from Pakistan to China, and Bangladesh.

Climate rountable

On Wednesday 21st Antonio Guterres hosts a climate roundtable with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi who is expected to join remotely. The event is billed as an opportunity for world leaders to have a “frank and informal exchange” on how to deliver a successful outcome at COP27 which takes place in Sharm El Sheikh. One to watch at the roundtable will be the newly appointed UN climate chief Simon Stiell.

5 asks

Guterres is expected to make 5 specific pleas at UNGA. He will call for leaders to deliver on loss & damage, make progress on meeting the $100bn already committed by richer countries and also call for adaptation finance to be doubled to $40bn. He’s also likely to pressure the World Bank and fellow development banks to massively hike their concessional finance flows.

1.5C plans

The UAE is expected to publish a climate plan ahead of the September 23rd deadline set by the UN. Indonesia is another country expected to file soon. The UN’s ‘NDC Synthesis’ report is due on October 21st. Despite submissions this year from Australia, Egypt, India and a long term plan from Russia many countries have yet to submit their plans. The Climate Action Tracker’s virtual event on September 21st is worth joining to see who is falling behind.

UN net zero panel

The UN High-Level Expert Group on Net Zero is expected to issue its findings in a report ahead of COP27. Over 300 submissions have been received by the group looking at net zero climate commitments by corporations, cities and states. Negotiations on the definition of net zero, the use of offsets and the connection of net zero to business plans and capital expenditure will be under fierce discussion in NYC.

Key UNGA dates

*20 – Climate & Development Ministerial (UK, Rwanda hosting +40 countries)
*20 –  UN General Assembly speeches inc Guterres
*20 – Leaders Pledge for Nature
*20-21 – Food Summit on Global Hunger Crisis
*21-23 – Global Clean Energy Action Forum / Clean Energy Ministerial [Pittsburgh]
*21 – UNSG “informal roundtable” on climate 
*22 – COP26 President Alok Sharma speech @ Columbia University
*23 – UNFCCC NDC synthesis deadline
*23 – Youth protests on Loss & Damage 
*26 – 30: Global Methane, Climate & Clean Air Forum – meeting of signatories to the Global Methane Pledge to share best practice and discuss solutions ahead of COP27.

Reconvening since its launch in 2019 will be the Leaders Pledge for Nature -but without the leaders. Officials wil be in NY to talk about nature financing and how to unblock a global deal for nature at the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). At the same time. China and Canada are taking leaders off the agenda for the CBD. The politics of the CBD are not going well and having leaders turn up to Climate COPs has been an effective tool in driving progress. Surprising then, to find out Canada and China may be setting it up for failure.