Theresa May slaps down Donald Trump demand to rewrite climate treaty in speech to UN

British Prime Minister Theresa May has delivered a rebuke to Donald Trump over his demand to renegotiate the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change.

In her keynote speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York shortly before a private meeting with the US president, the PM called on all countries to "come together and defend" the rules-based system of international agreements and conventions such as the Paris accord and nuclear non-proliferation treaties.

Mrs May singled out Syria and North Korea for condemnation as she warned that the system was threatened by "states deliberately flouting for their own gain the rules and standards that have secured our collective prosperity and security".

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. Picture: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Security Council members should be "prepared to take all necessary measures" to exert pressure on Kim Jong-Un and restore stability to the Korean peninsula, she said.

The PM also called on the United Nations to reform, warning that Britain will make up to 30% of its annual £90 million core funding for the organisation's agencies conditional on it making good on new secretary general Antonio Guterres's drive to make it "more agile, transparent and joined-up".

While the UK will continue to be "generous", the £30 million will be provided only to agencies which show they are efficient and transparent.

Mr Trump's call for the Paris accord to be rewritten in America's favour was rejected on Tuesday by French president Emmanuel Macron, who told the UN that "we won't go back" on the 2015 deal which sets out mechanisms to keep global warming within two degrees of pre-industrial temperatures.

In her address in New York, Mrs May specifically condemned the "unforgiveable" use of chemical weapons by Bashar Assad's regime in Syria and the "outrageous" development of nuclear weapons by North Korea.

Without mentioning Mr Trump or the US by name, she made clear that she regards it as vital that all UN states stick by their commitments in agreements to tackle issues ranging from security to trade protectionism and climate change.

"I believe that the only way for us to respond to this vast array of challenges is to come together and defend the international order that we have worked so hard to create and the values by which we stand," said Mrs May.

"For it is the fundamental values that we share - values of fairness, justice and human rights -that have created the common cause between nations to act together in our shared interest and form the multilateral system.

"And it is this rules-based system which we have developed - including the institutions, the international frameworks of free and fair trade; agreements such as the Paris Climate Change accord and laws and conventions like the Non-Proliferation Treaty - which enables the global co-operation through which we can protect those values."

International Development Secretary Priti Patel announced on Tuesday that the UK was introducing a 30% "performance agreement" under which core funding for the UN will be dependent on improved results, including effective accountability and feedback on how money donated in response to global emergencies is spent.

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. Picture: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Mrs May told the General Assembly that a failure to introduce reforms along the lines proposed by former Portuguese prime minister Mr Guterres would jeopardise public support for the UN.

"If this system we have created is found no longer to be capable of meeting the challenges of our time, then there will be a crisis of faith in multilateralism and global co-operation that will damage the interests of all our peoples," she warned.

"So those of us who hold true to our shared values, who hold true to that desire to defend the rules and high standards that have shaped and protected the world we live in, need to strive harder than ever to show that institutions like this United Nations can work for the countries that formed them, and for the people who we represent.

"This means reforming our United Nations and the wider international system so it can prove its worth in helping us to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

Reform will require better co-operation on the ground between UN agencies, improvements to gender equality and real leadership on tackling damaging issues like sexual exploitation and abuse by UN workers on missions in disadvantaged countries, she said.

And she called for changes to the systems for dealing with refugees and migrants to ensure that migration is "safe, orderly, well managed and legal" and more of those fleeing conflict are offered support near to their home countries.

"Throughout its history the UN has suffered from a seemingly unbridgeable gap between the nobility of its purposes and the effectiveness of its delivery," said Mrs May.

"When the need for multilateral action has never been greater, the shortcomings of the UN and its institutions risk undermining the confidence of states as members and donors.

"Even more importantly, they risk the confidence and faith of those who rely upon the blue helmets; who rely upon that sign I stand in front of today coming to their aid in the darkest of hours.

"So we must begin by supporting the ambitious reform agenda that Secretary General Guterres is now leading to create a more agile, transparent and joined-up organisation."


 

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