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Biden tells UN America will ‘climate-proof’ the world

By Jake Beardslee · September 20, 2023

In brief…

  • Biden pledged continued U.S. humanitarian aid and climate action in his UN address.
  • He touted the success of the PEPFAR AIDS relief program and warned of lost global progress due to COVID-19 and other crises.
  • Biden vowed the US will remain the largest donor single-country donor of humanitarian assistance.
  • He warned Russia alone is responsible for the Ukraine war, saying no nation is safe if Ukraine is carved up.
 In a United Nations speech Biden committed the US to large-scale humanitarian and environmental programs his critics say are unaffordable.  The White House/Wikimedia

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, President Joe Biden pledged the United States would remain the “largest single country donor” of humanitarian assistance and vowed to help “climate-proof” the world.

The president’s commitments come as some Republicans in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail have suggested reducing international aid budgets while dismissing climate concerns. Biden touted the success of PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which is up for reauthorization amid conservative objections that it supports abortion abroad.

“We saved tens of millions of lives that would otherwise be lost to preventable and treatable diseases like measles, malaria and tuberculosis,” Biden said. “HIV/AIDS infections and deaths plummeted in no small part because of PEPFAR’s work in more than 55 countries, saving more than 25 million lives.”

Biden acknowledged that while decades of progress had been made globally, “the world has lost ground these past years in the wake of COVID-19, conflicts and other crises.” He committed the U.S. to “doing its part to get us back on track” and promoted the $100 billion in development aid provided during his first two years in office.

Biden also labeled the climate crisis as the world’s most pressing issue.  

“We see it everywhere,” he said. “Record-breaking heat waves in the United States and China, wildfires ravaging North America and southern Europe, a fifth year of drought in the Horn of Africa, tragic, tragic flooding in Libya. Together, these snapshots show an urgent story of what awaits us if we fail to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and don’t begin to climate-proof the world.”

The president also vowed that “as we work together to recover from global shocks, the United States will also continue to be the largest single-country donor of humanitarian assistance at this moment of unparalleled need in the world.”

The president warned that no nation is safe if Ukraine is “carved up” by Russia, slamming Russia’s “naked aggression” in Ukraine. He reiterated U.S. support for Ukraine and said, “Russia alone bears responsibility for this war.”