Climate change poses the “greatest long-term threat” to global stability and prosperity, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Minister told the General Assembly tonight, issuing a call to industrialized nations to shoulder their burden in dealing with the problem and to also meet their commitments on aid and genuinely reform the international terms of trade.
David Miliband said the world cannot stand united against shared threats and opportunities when there are so many economic and political disparities between States and peoples.
“We live in a more prosperous world, a more peaceful world, a more democratic world than ever before,” he said. “Let’s commit to living in a more equal world.”
Mr. Miliband described inequalities as “not just morally offensive; they are also dangerous. Inequality fuels extremism. It undermines support for an open global economy. It corrodes trust and reciprocity between nations.”
The biggest threat of all, he stressed, was the impact of climate change, especially on the poorest countries.
He said the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was the only body that could conclude a meaningful agreement on global warming to succeed the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions.
“At the heart of an agreement must be the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. All countries must take on responsibilities, but these must be equitable distributed, with the greatest action taken by the richest countries. The UK stands ready to play its part.”
Although many of the poorest nations were now posting the largest rates of economic growth, around a billion people in 58 countries have been “left out of the story of human progress,” condemned to a low life expectancy because of illness or malnutrition.
“Despite progress in some countries, the world is off track to meet its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” Mr. Miliband said, referring to the set of anti-poverty targets that world leaders agreed at a UN summit in 2000 to strive to reach by 2015.
He also called on the countries of the developed world to meet their previously announced commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of their national income on development, adding that the UK will meet this target by 2013.
New trade rules that are fairer to poorer economies need to be developed as well, Mr. Miliband said, arguing that a successful conclusion later this year to the current Doha round of talks is feasible. He said the current arrangements were unsustainable.
“Western producers continue to benefit from subsidies and tariffs, particularly for agriculture. Higher tariffs for processed goods prevent poor countries diversifying their economies. This is a bad deal for Western consumers, and it squeezes out the livelihoods of producers in poorer countries. It is neither in rich countries’ financial self-interest, nor is it fair.”