U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP will find four parallel universes this week on the East Side of New York, where the U.N. General Assembly is kicking off in earnest.
In the first universe, most countries will be blasting the U.S. for its diplomatic isolation on climate change. (More on that later.)
In the second, Trump will spend Monday rallying conservatives to fight for religious freedom, only a day after campaigning with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a man banned from the U.S. in 2005 for violating religious freedom (which the administration says is under threat for 83 percent of the world’s population).
Meanwhile, in the third universe, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump — freshly arrived from attending a society wedding in Rome over the weekend — opens today’s Concordia Summit in New York in conversation with summit supremo Matthew Swift, on women’s empowerment.
And finally, the U.S. president will join wealthy New Yorkers (a demographic that’s often frozen him out of their circles) at two fundraisers Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday couples will fork out $250,000 for a photo with the president, and on Thursday they’ll hob-nob with him at hedge-funder John Paulson’s 20,000 square-foot mansion on East 86th St.
THE SHADOW OF TRUMP: President Trump’s UNGA plans can be seen through an electoral prism. He spent the weekend giving campaign-like speeches with friendly visiting leaders (from India and Australia). Today he sends a message to his base that he favors fighting for religious freedom over climate action, while daughter Ivanka pitches to successful suburban women. On Tuesday or Wednesday, trade insiders expect Trump to squeeze a sectoral agriculture trade deal out of Japan, which he can wave at Midwestern farmers. On Wednesday, he’ll meet with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (also a former TV star) in the midst of a scandal over whether he pressured Zelenskiy to investigate his biggest domestic rival Joe Biden. And then there’s the two fundraisers to help pay to amplify all those above messages.
IS IT USA VS. WORLD ON CLIMATE? While some think “screw you, President Trump,” the broader truth is that dozens of governments aren’t living up to their Paris climate promises. That said, the world’s largest companies, wealthiest donors and even large chunks of the U.S. are re-tooling their economies to be cleaner and greener whether Trump likes it or not. Their strategy is to put in place laws, investment vehicles and their own internal commitments they hope will last for decades beyond the Trump presidency. Even those who aren’t linking directly to the U.N. events are aligning their timing with the U.N., such as Amazon supremo Jeff Bezos with his new climate initiative.
HELLO FROM NEW YORK CITY, where POLITICO has assembled our own delegation to the U.N. General Assembly, including David Herszenhorn from Brussels, Rym Momtaz from Paris, and Emilio Casalicchio from London. And from Washington, Anita Kumar and Adam Behsudi.
The talk of the town today is, of course, the Climate Summit, as the U.N. General Assembly kicks off in earnest. As ever, send tips, spotteds and gripes to [email protected]. Let’s dive in …
RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT: The EU’s red party is driving the world’s increasingly green politics. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is the host for Monday’s emergency summit in New York on climate change — he’s also one of the most influential voices in the Party of European Socialists.
The former Portuguese prime minister has brought those sensibilities to the United Nations, where he has fused the battle against global warming with simultaneous efforts to fight inequality. While the secretary-general’s post, by definition, is non-partisan, it is hardly a secret that Guterres at core is a European Socialist. His sentimental, if not official, allegiance was on display Sunday during a meeting with the EU’s highest-ranking Social Democrats: Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans and foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.
The Social Democrats’ climate push is putting pressure on instinctively business-friendly conservatives, and co-opting the core issue of Green parties just as their views have been entering the mainstream. It’s a page from a playbook the conservatives once used against the Socialists by endorsing strong social welfare policies like government-provided healthcare and family leave.
The effort by the center-left to own the climate issue is likely to have big implications for elections in Europe — and around the world, including in the U.S.. It doesn’t take a master political strategist or genius pollster to recognize the electoral implications of the millions of people who poured onto the streets for a worldwide climate protest on Friday.
One of Timmermans’s responsibilities is overseeing a push toward a European Green Deal, a €1.1 trillion effort. There’s no guarantee the Green Deal will be approved in full by EU countries, but in scope and ambition, it represents precisely the sort of concrete plans — including an ambitious target of carbon neutrality by 2050, a potential carbon border tax, and a “Just Transition Fund” to help businesses and workers caught in the transition to greener policies — that Guterres has urged world leaders to bring to New York.
Europeans have been among the quickest to rally to the secretary general’s cause. On a day filled with political glad-handing, Guterres’ very first photo-op, scheduled for 8 a.m. in New York, is with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is arriving at the Climate Summit with her own concrete initiatives — a €54 billion domestic climate package.
New promises: On the eve of the summit, 15 other world leaders, including the prime ministers of Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden, signed a pledge committing to net-zero global emissions by 2050.
New on the bandwagon: Even Russian President Vladimir Putin has signaled a willingness to be more active in the climate fight and is expected to use the summit to announce that he will ratify the 2015 Paris accord. But as Guterres makes fighting climate change, economic inequality and lack of healthcare the signature priorities of his tenure, he is clearly looking to his fellow Europeans for the greatest support.
Monday’s summit will begin with a breakfast on saving the world’s rainforests, especially the Amazon — an effort propelled to the top of the global agenda by French President Emmanuel Macron at a summit of G7 leaders in Biarritz last month.
Generation gap: At a U.N. youth summit on Saturday, Guterres sat next to Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who has been the force behind worldwide student protests. Citing Friday’s outpouring, Thunberg said: “We showed that we are united. And that we young people are unstoppable.”
“My generation has a huge responsibility,” Guterres told her and other young participants. “It is your generation that must make us be accountable to make sure that we don’t betray the future of humankind.”
HERE IS POLITICO’S GUIDE TO WHAT WILL AND WILL NOT MATTER TODAY — “Trump threatens to overshadow U.N. climate push,” by Anthony Adragna and Ryan Heath.
WITH TRUMP OUT, WHO IS CLIMATE SUMMITING THEN? India, Europe, Indonesia and California, in essence. The biggest absentees are the U.S., Japan and Australia. China and Russia are involved but not their top leadership. Around 60 countries are expected to propose pledges related to their Paris deal commitments. Full list of speakers here.
Silent partner: A notable absentee from the speakers list is former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, though he is active in fighting climate change as leader the Global Commission on Adaptation.
WILL THIS SUMMIT BE A BUST? It’s certainly not meeting its potential. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres is frustrated. “I told leaders not to come with fancy speeches, but with concrete commitments,” he told reporters. The EU thinks not enough of the world is following its lead, but is hamstrung by its leadership changeover on November 1, and its main hard power tool to force action is trade deals (it plans to deny free trade access to anyone not signing and delivering the Paris deal), and those deals take years to ink. On the private sector side, of 45 economic sectors assessed by the International Energy Agency, only seven are on track to live up to the Paris Climate Agreement.
WHERE’S CHINA? GETTING WARMER. POLITICO’s Paul Taylor joined Chinese and European policy experts, politicians and business leaders Sunday to look at creating a system for a converging minimum price for carbon. The next stop is a conference in Beijing around Easter 2020. (There was palpable irony in seeing China and the EU pursuing a multilateral, market-based solution to climate change only a mile from Trump Tower.) The speakers included Wang Yi, a member of the standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress. Former French Finance Minister Edmond Alphandéry said, “If you want to succeed, you have to put a price on carbon …We’re in a market economy — if you want to get rid of something, you have to raise the price and wait for people to shift to something else.”
THE CARBON PRICE IS THE THING: Any shift to cross-region or global carbon pricing will be welcomed by businesses. Jen Austin, representing the We Mean Business Coalition, said “Markets need full information on climate risks and opportunities, and clear pricing signals and policies that shift global financial flows away from polluting investments.” In the absence of a global carbon pricing system, “hundreds of companies are using an internal carbon price to inform operations and investment decisions.” Around 1,000 businesses have made climate commitments through the We Mean Business Coalition partners’ initiatives. More than 1400 companies globally are setting an internal carbon price for their own accounting.
What the science says: The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Sunday that the “tell-tale signs and impacts of climate change — such as sea level rise, ice loss and extreme weather — increased during 2015-2019, which is set to be the warmest five-year period on record.” The WMO coordinated a comprehensive synthesis report of findings by the world’s leading climate science organizations.
TRUMP’S COVER — A CALL TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: The U.S. president will today give what a senior administration official labeled an “historic” speech on religious freedom in front of evangelical leaders and religious freedom activists, in a U.N. conference room seating around 250 people. While Trump could easily do both a climate and religious freedom event on the same day, he can now tell his base he was busy with an issue of concern to them, and couldn’t make the climate summit.
TRUMP’S MEETINGS TODAY: António Guterres (U.N.), Imran Khan (Pakistan), Andrzej Duda (Poland), Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand), Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore), Moon Jae-in (South Korea), Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Egypt). Overall, Trump is due to meet 12 leaders bilaterally this week, the same number as 2018.
MACRON’S MOVES: The French president leads a meeting for the Amazon with the leaders of Chile and Colombia, which follows up the G7 summit in Biarritz a month ago. The goal: reforestation of the Amazon. Macron will then join the official U.N. Climate Summit before dinner with U.N. boss Guterres. They’ll talk about the Middle East, Libya and climate. Macron told POLITICO’s Rym Momtaz that “something can happen” on Iran at UNGA, but the attacks on Saudi Arabia were a “game changer,” reinforcing the need for a relationship with clean lines with consequences. Macron expects this week to finally have enough information to be able to attribute responsibility for the attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Read more here.
BORIS BRIEF: British PM Boris Johnson returns to the city of his birth today, spending his flight here blaming Iran for the attack on Saudi oil facilities and promising to press Trump to get serious about climate action, but warning there will likely be no “New York breakthrough” on Brexit.
Johnson kicks off today with an 8 a.m. meeting with Pakistan’s Imran Khan, followed by New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel (on Iran), then Irish PM Leo Varadkar, current European Council President Donald Tusk, and future European Council President (and current Belgian PM) Charles Michel.
Brexit is the elephant in the room — especially management of the Irish border — in most of those meetings. In between all that, Johnson is supposed to close the official climate summit, with announcements of a $1.2 billion clean energy fund to help tackle climate change in developing countries and a $250 million biodiversity fund to protect endangered species. Watch Johnson set out his goals in this video here.
Put a sock in it: In response to a question about Trump, who Johnson will be meeting on Tuesday morning, the PM launched into a bizarre rant about socks. “If you try to sell British socks in North America, they currently attract a 19 percent tariff. And the Americans insist, before they allow British socks to be sold on the U.S. market, that they must try to set fire to them twice.”
ALSO LOOK OUT FOR: Carrie Symonds, Johnson’s live-in partner, who’s in New York advising the marine life charity Oceana ahead of a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on oceans, due Wednesday. The report is expected to contain a lot of alarming data.
CANADA SENDS IN THE EX-FILES: Canada will be represented at UNGA by two former prime ministers: Jean Chretien and Joe Clark, who was prime minister so long ago (1979-80), that the current PM’s father replaced him in the job.
FROM THE SIDELINES: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) writes in the New York Post that the Trump administration should invoke the snapback mechanism in United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2231 — the resolution that locked in the Iran nuclear deal during President Obama’s administration.
MIRRORING TRUMP: Pakistani leader Khan’s meeting list is nearly identical to Trump’s, though he also has a meeting with China FM Wang Yi.
History blink: How they dined at the first UNGA in 1946 (h/t David Clay)
Oops! UNGA canceled: At least according to one TV monitor within the U.N.
So UNGA: This art installation by Danish artist Jeppe Hein gets U.N. visitors to paint as they breathe.
Pollution pods: Designed by the artist Michael Pinsky, these immersive pods installed outside the U.N. allow visitors to experience the sort of air pollution they might find in Beijing, Sao Paulo, or New Delhi, for example.
“You’re trying to reverse gear while accelerating towards a brick wall without wrecking the engine.” — Mauro Petriccione, head of the European Commission’s climate department, on stopping climate change:
“This is a revolution that is happening on all levels.” — Jesper Brodin, IKEA Group CEO, who wants IKEA to become a “climate positive” company by 2030. Listen to Brodin’s interview with Playbook here.
“Sweden will be the world’s first fossil-free welfare nation.” — Sweden’s PM Stefan Löfven said. Watch here.
Playbook exclusive: An Edelman survey shows eight in 10 Millennials/Gen Z respondents view the U.N. favorably, but only 30 percent of respondents had knowledge of the U.N.’s most important goals — the Sustainable Development Goals. The survey here.
A separate World Economic Forum survey finds that 50 percent of Americans have never heard of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals — double the rate of the global sample. More than nine in 10 Turks have heard of the goals. More details here.
TSUNAMI OF CLIMATE PLEDGES: Hundreds of companies are in New York touting their efforts. For example, 87 companies have signed up to this U.N. Global Compact initiative, another 50 companies are due to launch the “Getting to Zero” coalition on Monday and 130 banks to the Principles for Responsible Banking (more on this below). Like any bubble, it’s enough to make a journalist think all companies are changing, but that’s not the case.
BANKS MAKE THE BIG LEAP FORWARD: Nine multilateral development banks announced plans to increase global climate finance and co-finance each year to $175 billion by 2025. A coalition of 130 private banks, representing a third of the global banking sector with $47 trillion in assets, launched the Principles for Responsible Banking with U.N. Secretary-General Guterres. Civil society organizations including 350.org, Rainforest Action Network and BankTrack “cautiously” welcomed the initiative “while demanding real action from signatory banks.” To the NGOs’ point, only 31 of the signatory banks, including BNP Paribas, signed a more specific Collective Committment to Climate Action that directly put the principles into action. The Climate Finance Leadership Initiative (CFLI) includes Allianz GI, AXA, HSBC, Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), Goldman Sachs, Enel, and Macquarie.
Listen here for our interview with Werner Hoyer, president of European Investment Bank.
BIG IDEA — CLIMATE RESTORATION: The Foundation for Climate Restoration (F4CR) doesn’t just want to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, it wants to reverse them and return the world to pre-industrial carbon levels. That means “getting the carbon out of the air,” says Rick Parnell, using technologies like carbon negative concrete (currently installed at San Francisco airport by Blue Planet). Their latest report here
TODAY’S FORGOTTEN ISSUE — THE DRIVE FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE: Health activists estimate that around half the world’s population lack access to essential health care services. Today is also the first-ever high-level meeting on universal health care at the U.N. Most countries are expected to sign on to deliver care for all, but there’s a long way to go before the world starts to properly measure progress, or come up with workable standards of what constitutes decent universal care. More here
HOT TICKET: The Atlantic Council’s Global Citizen Awards black tie dinner, honoring leaders including Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The invite-only, black-tie affair takes place at Cipriani this evening.
PARTY WRAP: Goals House at Tavern on the Green made a strong UNGA debut under a canopy of festival lights Sunday night, and with live music and M&Ms for all. It’s going to be the hot venue for the week’s nightcaps. There was a full house at Party for Good, amid oil portraits at the rather stiff Century Association, with what seemed like an open mic for good causes on stage. Guests won’t have much use for free sleeping masks this week, but they may help on the flight home.
HONORED: Europe’s GLOBSEC think tank awarded its Freedom Medals Friday night at a gala dinner at Bohemian National Hall in New York’s Upper East Side to Wendy Luers, the National Endowment for Democracy and five state National Guards from the U.S.‚ Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Indiana and Nebraska, represented by their commanding generals, who have helped defend Central and Eastern Europe in 26-year-long partnerships since 1993.
BORIS BUMPED ON JFK TARMAC: The British prime minister was stuck on the tarmac at JFK for almost an hour on Sunday, waiting for a parking spot that was being held by another VIP plane. Shortly after, the RAF Voyager began rolling to its final resting spot, another aircraft was noticed driving away marked “Kingdom of Spain.”
Pay to plane: Delayed leaders have reason to wonder why they’re stuck. In the past, at least one country tried to bribe New York Airport officials to give their bosses priority. In 2018, prosecutors indicted Marlene Mizzi (the JFK supervisor, not the Member of the European Parliament) and Joseph Jourieh of Qatar’s U.N. mission for trading watches, meals and limo rides in exchange for favorable landing slots. Mizzi has admitted to taking bribes.
EAT YOUR GREENS: #MeatlessMondays is nudging you to eat green this week, via this list of restaurants that claim to tread lightly in their supply chains and menus.
AMBASSADOR MERRY-GO-ROUND: Did you know? Both China and the U.S. are on their third U.N. ambassadors in as many years.
Here’s how you can stand out at UNGA online: Simply add the hashtag #UNGA to your Twitter profile or, even better, in the Twitter name. After about 24 hours, your account will crop up in Twitter’s search.
U.N. TRIVIA: The United Nations runs an “Ask Dag” library named after former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, who died in a plane crash while on a peacekeeping mission..
DIPLO FOODIE GUIDE: Craving ceviche and other delights during UNGA week? PassBlue has you covered.
OFF MESSAGE: As campaigners push for the funds needed to ensure clean water for all, Pennylane Coffee, a block from U.N. HQ, is hawking $10 “Ginseng Water.” As in water with a drop of ginseng in it. No thanks.
IPCC — Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
HLM — High-level Meeting
SDGs — Sustainable Development Goals
SIDS — Small Island Developing States
DGC — U.N. Department of Global Communications
SG — U.N. Secretary General (Currently, Guterres)
DSG — U.N. Deputy Secretary-General (Currently, Amina Mohammed)
PGA — President of the U.N. General Assembly (currently Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Nigeria’s ambassador to the U.N.)
P5 — The 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (U.S., UK, Russia, France, and China)
TOP EVENTS OF THE DAY
All Day: U.N. Climate Action Summit.
All Day: Concordia Annual Summit — the biggest non-protest fringe event with 3,500 participants.
All day: World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit, Convene, 730 3rd Avenue.
All day: The Female Quotient Lounge — a big success at the World Economic Forum in Davos — is back, running a full-day program today and Tuesday from 8 a.m. onwards at Sugar Factory, 1991 Broadway Street.
Climate change: How Companies are Adapting to Climate Risk, at Nature’s Climate Hub, 101 Park Avenue. Register here, from 9 a.m.
Banking: U.N. Principles for Responsible Banking, BNP Paribas hosting at 787 7th Ave, 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Iran: Brian Hook, special representative for Iran and senior policy adviser to the U.S. secretary of state, speaks at the Asia Society, 725 Park Ave, 3 p.m.
Journalism reception: APCO for International Center for Journalists, hosting “Cocktails with a Cause” at Harvard Club 44th St, RSVP at: [email protected], 6 – 8 p.m.
Health: “Re-thinking health and wellbeing: how health systems contribute to economic and societal progress” Millennium Hilton, One United Nations Plaza, 6.30 p.m.
Gender balance: The Present is Female, Goals House, Tavern on the Green, W 67th Street, hosted by Michael Sneed from Johnson & Johnson with Samantha Barry, editor of Glamour U.S.; Amika George, founder of Free Periods; Amani al-Khatahtbeh, co-founder of MuslimGirl.com, 7 p.m.
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