UNGA Convenes Among Climate Protests and Regional Tensions

The United Nations General Assembly, also known as UNGA, starts in New York this week, with political, business and civil society leaders converging on the world’s most prominent diplomatic stage for a week of events, meetings, and of course clashes over climate change and international affairs.

Climate Action Summit

What sets this year’s General Assembly apart is a series of key events and meetings focused on climate change. The most significant of these activities is the UN Climate Action Summit taking place on September 23.

The Climate Action Summit has been described as the most substantial global meeting on the matter since the Climate Change Conference in Paris and it is taking place amidst global demonstrations for urgent action against climate change.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres will call on world leaders to commit to exceeding the emissions reduction and renewable energy goals of the Paris Agreement, an accord from which President Trump withdrew and the implementation of which many of the remaining signatories are still lagging. Governments must cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 to help contain global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Making a case against Iran

Although the recent G7 Summit in France entertained the possibility of a historic meeting between President Trump and his Iranian counterpart, the mid-September attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities has rendered such a meeting at least improbable.

Despite allegations of evidence from the American and Saudi side that Iran attacked with drones and cruise missiles, Iran has rejected all accusations. The General Assembly will allow the US administration to resume efforts towards a deterrence coalition against Iran, prioritising at this stage political and economic pressure to any kind of military response.

India, Pakistan and the Kashmir dispute

The General Assembly is expected to host another episode of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. Pakistan has condemned Indian Prime Minister’s decision to strip Indian-administered Kashmir of its autonomy, with Pakistani Prime Minister’s address to the assembly considered as a golden opportunity to steer international attention towards Islamabad’s view. Pakistan has not managed to gain much diplomatic traction on the issue so far and Imran Khan’s speech is expected to be powerful and confrontational.

Brexit on the sidelines

While climate action and the protection of the Amazon are high on the EU’s UNGA agenda, the meetings of European Council President Donald Tusk with the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and his British counterpart Boris Johnson tell that even in New York everything moves around Brexit.

Less than 40 days before the deadline for a deal expires, progress is yet to be recorded regarding the Irish border question. The Irish government together with the European Commission have insisted on the need for a border backstop that Boris Johnson has promised to tear up. The rest of the EU stands also united behind Ireland and will not consent to a backstop replacement without Dublin’s agreement.

The latest rumoured suggestions by the British negotiators for a backstop alternative have not managed to convince neither Dublin nor Brussels about their ability to keep the border invisible and safeguard the Good Friday Agreement. It remains to be seen whether the change of scenery will result in any breakthroughs before the decisive European Council meeting in October.