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Biden vows to beat COVID and climate change in debut speech to UN General Assembly: ‘Let’s get to work’

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 9/21/2021 Dave Goldiner, New York Daily News
Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: US President Joe Biden addresses the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021 in New York. © Eduardo Munoz/Pool/AFP/AFP/TNS US President Joe Biden addresses the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021 in New York.

NEW YORK — President Joe Biden passionately called on world leaders to work together to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and address the challenge of climate change in his first address as president to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning.

Seeking to usher in a new era of U.S. leadership, Biden vowed to respect allies and partners as America shows the way to defeat the ever more difficult shared problems facing the entire globe.

“We will lead not just with the example of our power but with the power of the example,” Biden told more than 100 leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly Hall.

“Bombs and bullets cannot defend against COVID-19, or its future variants,” he added. “To fight this pandemic, we need a collective act of science and political will.”

Biden called climate change an existential challenge for a world already facing a “code red” increase in temperatures worldwide. He promised to work together for solutions with wealthy and developing nations alike.

“We will lead on all the greatest challenges of our time from COVD to climate,” he said. “But we will not lead alone. We will go together.”

“Let’s get to work,” he said. “Let’s make our better future now.”

Video: Biden urges countries to 'choose to fight for our shared future' at U.N. General Assembly (NBC News)


Biden also called for diplomacy to solve rifts with rivals like Iran and North Korea while warning that the U.S. would continue to flex its military muscle when needed.

Amid growing China tensions Biden also declared the U.S. is “not seeking a new Cold War,” even though he didn’t mention the biggest geopolitical rival by name.

He repeated America’s “unshakeable” support for Israel, but insisted that the U.S. remains committed to a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

Just three weeks after he ordered the last U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan, Biden boasted that America was at peace with the world after 20 years of overseas conflicts.

But he warned that the U.S. remains committed to fighting terror and extremism, whether overseas or at home.

“We must also remain vigilant to the threat of terror, that terrorism poses, to all our nations, whether emanating from distant regions of the world or in our own backyard,” Biden said

Boosting human rights, he name-checked China’s oppression of Uyghur minority and Ethiopia’s crackdown in its northern region of Tigray as intolerable violations of global norms.

Biden was greeted warmly by the diplomats in the chamber in a noticeable shift from Trump who endured frosty receptions when he spoke to the body. A handful even gave him a standing ovation at the end of his 30-minute address.

Biden arrived in New York on Monday evening and met with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ahead of Tuesday’s address at the annual traffic-clogging diplomatic marquee event.

He still needs to portray strength to rivals like China and Russia and calm tensions with allies like France and Europe.

Before Biden’s arrival, EU Council President Charles Michel strongly criticized the Biden administration for leaving Europe “out of the game in the Indo-Pacific region” and failing to work together with allies.


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