UN General Assembly kicks off in New York City

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 9:02 PM ET, Tue September 21, 2021
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10:50 a.m. ET, September 21, 2021

Biden says US isn’t seeking a new Cold War, in nod to competition with China

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Biden, without naming China, said the United States isn’t seeking to reenter a global era of conflict akin to the decades-long standoff with the Soviet Union.

“The United States will compete, and will compete vigorously, and lead with our values and our strength,” Biden said in his first address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

He said the US would “stand up for our allies and our friends and oppose attempts by stronger countries that dominate weaker ones.” He cited attempts to change territory by force, economic coercion and disinformation as examples of malign activity the US would oppose. Still, he said those efforts should be interpreted as aggression.

“We're not seeking — say it again — we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocks,” he said.

“The United States is ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to shared challenges, even if we have intense disagreement in other areas, because we'll all suffer the consequences of our failure,” he said.

10:55 a.m. ET, September 21, 2021

Biden: "I stand here today for the first time in 20 years with the United States not at war" 

From CNN's Betsy Klein

(Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
(Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden told world leaders that his country is focused squarely on the future, noting that ending the war in Afghanistan was a step in moving in that direction.

"These are the challenges that we will determine what the world looks like for our children and grandchildren and what they'll inherit. We can only meet them by looking to the future. I stand here today for the first time in 20 years with the United States not at war. We've turned the page," Biden said. 

"All the unmatched strength, energy and commitment, will and resources of our nation are now fully and squarely focused on what's ahead of us, not what was behind," he continued.

Biden said the US is looking to lead on the global stage, but with the help of its allies and partners.

"As we look ahead, we will lead, we will lead on all the greatest challenges of our time from Covid to climate, peace and security, human dignity and human rights, but we will not go it alone," he told the United Nations. "We'll lead together with our allies and partners and in cooperation with all those who believe as we do, that this is within our power to meet these challenges, to build a future, to lift all of our people and preserve this planet. But none of this is inevitable. It's a choice."

"I can tell you where America stands, we will choose to build a better future, we, you and I. We have the will and capacity to make it better," he continued. "Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot afford to waste any more time. Let's get to work. Let's make our better future now. It's within our power and our capacity."

Earlier in his speech: US President described his worldview of a “new era of relentless diplomacy” in his first remarks to the United Nations General Assembly as President, calling on the world to work together on shared challenges.

Calling it a “moment intermingled with great pain and extraordinary possibility” amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Biden said the “shared grief is a poignant reminder that our collective future will hinge on our ability to recognize our common humanity, and act together.”

Biden reiterated his belief that it is an “inflection point in history” and the dawn of “what must be a decisive decade for the world.”

He framed the moment as an opportunity for the world’s democracies, echoing sentiments casting this time in history as a question of whether democracy can prevail over autocracy.

“Will we affirm and uphold the human dignity and human rights under which nations and common cause more than seven decades ago formed this institution?” Biden asked. He continued, “Or, allow these universal principles to be trampled and twisted in the pursuit of naked political power? In my view, how we answer these questions in this moment, whether we choose to fight for our shared future or not, will reverberate for generations yet to come.”

The President called on world leaders to work together to defeat the pandemic and take steps toward preventing the next pandemic, combat climate change, strengthen the UN charter and human rights globally, and collaborate on trade, cyber, emerging technologies, and the threat of terrorism.

10:43 a.m. ET, September 21, 2021

US must be on guard against terrorism abroad and "in our own backyard," Biden says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

(Eduardo Munoz/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)
(Eduardo Munoz/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden said the US must remain vigilant against global and domestic terrorism in his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

"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 in front of world leaders.

"The bitter sting of terrorism is real. We've almost all experienced it. Last month, we lost 13 American heroes and almost 200 innocent Afghan civilians in a heinous terrorist attack at the Kabul airport. Those who commit acts of terrorism against us will continue to find a determined enemy in the United States. The world today is not the world of 2001, though. And the United States is not the same country we were when we were attacked on 9/11, 20 years ago. Today, we're better equipped to detect and prevent terrorist threats and we are more resilient in our ability to repel them and to respond," he said.

Biden also said the US will work with local partners to decrease the need for large military deployments.

"We'll meet terrorist threats that arise today and in the future with a full range of tools available to us, including working in cooperation with local partners, so that we need not be so reliant on large-scale military deployments. One of the most important ways we can effectively enhance security and reduce violence is by seeking to improve the lives of the people all over the world who see that their governments are not serving their needs," he said.

10:41 a.m. ET, September 21, 2021

Biden announces effort to mobilize $100 billion to support climate action in developing nations

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

(Eduardo Munoz/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)
(Eduardo Munoz/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden, citing “widespread death and devastation” due to climate change, announced Tuesday he would work with Congress to double US funding to help developing countries combat the crisis.

He said along with private capital efforts, the step would meet a goal of mobilizing $100 billion to support climate action in developing nations.

The steps come as Biden said the world is approaching a “point of no return” in the climate crisis.

He called on nations to “bring their highest possible ambitions to the table,” when world leaders convene in six weeks at a climate summit in Scotland.

10:53 a.m. ET, September 21, 2021

Biden: "A two-state solution" will ensure "Israel's future as a jewish democratic state"

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

While expressing the United States' "unequivocal" support for an independent Jewish state, President Biden said he believed in a two-state solution for the longstanding conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

"I continue to believe that a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable, sovereign, and democratic Palestinian state. We're a long way from that goal at this moment. We must never allow ourselves to give up the possibility of progress," he told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

Currently, Israel is recognized as a member state by the UN and Palestinians hold a "non-member observer state" status.

10:33 a.m. ET, September 21, 2021

Biden: US committing $10 billion to fight hunger globally

Biden announced during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly that the US will make a $10 billion commitment to the effort to "end hunger and invest in food systems at home and abroad."

"At a time when nearly 1 in 3 people globally do not have access to adequate food, just last year, the United States has committed to rallying our partners to address immediate malnutrition and ensure we can sustainably feed the world for the decades to come."

10:41 a.m. ET, September 21, 2021

Biden says US will pursue "new rules of global trade and economic growth"

(Timothy A. Clary/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)
(Timothy A. Clary/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

In his address to the United Nations Tuesday, US President Biden said the US would pursue new rules of global trade and economic growth.

"We will pursue new rules of global trade and economic growth, level the playing field so it's not artificially tipped in any one country at the expense of others and every nation has the right and opportunity to compete fairly," the President said.

"We will strive to ensure basic labor rights, environmental safe guards, and intellectual property are protected and that the benefits of globalization are shared broadly throughout all our societies. We'll continue to uphold the long-standing rules and norms that have formed the guardrails of international engagement for decades that have been essential to the development of nations around the world. Bedrock commitments like freedom of navigation, adherence to international laws and treaties, support for arms control measures to reduce the risk and enhance transparency," Biden continued.

"As we strive to deal with these urgent challenges, whether they're long-standing or newly emerging, we must also deal with one another. All the major powers of the world have a duty, in my view, to carefully manage their relationships so they do not tip from responsible competition to conflict," Biden said.

His comments come amid tension between European leaders and the White House over a scuppered submarine deal. The French government has been seething since last week, when Australia abandoned a huge deal to buy conventional submarines from France. Instead, the US and UK announced they would help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines as part of a new security pact called AUKUS.

The move has opened a new fissure in the Western alliance and sparked growing public criticism from other European officials.

You can read more about the submarine deal here.


3:53 p.m. ET, September 21, 2021

Biden: "Bombs and bullets" cannot defend us against Covid-19 or its future variants

(Evan Vucci/AP)
(Evan Vucci/AP)

President Biden said that the US military will continue to defend "ourselves, our allies, and our interest against attack," adding that the mission "must be clear and achievable."

"US military power must be our tool of last resort not our first and should not be used as an answer to every problem we see around the world," he said in is remarks before the UN General Assembly.

Biden continued: "Indeed, today many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed through the force of arms. Bombs and bullets cannot defend against Covid-19 or its future variants. To fight this pandemic, we need a collective act of science and political will. We need to get shots in arms as fast as possible and expand access to oxygen, tests, treatments to save lives around the world." 

He touted American vaccine sharing efforts, saying they’d provided a “little dose of hope” in communities around the world.

He said that the US has contributed more than $15 billion toward global Covid-19 response, shipping "more than 160 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to other countries." 

"This includes 130 million doses from our own supply and the first tranches of a half a billion doses of Pfizer vaccine we purchased to donate through COVAX," he said.

Biden said that tomorrow at the US-hosted global Covid-19 summit, he'll be announcing additional commitments from the US to fight Covid-19 around the world and to "hold ourselves accountable around specific targets on three key challenges — saving lives now, vaccinating the world, and building back better."

10:25 a.m. ET, September 21, 2021

Biden: Climate crisis is "borderless" and demands cooperation

(Timothy A. Clary/Pool/Getty Images)
(Timothy A. Clary/Pool/Getty Images)

President Biden called on world leaders to unite in fighting climate change, telling those at the UN General Assembly that the crisis is "borderless."

"This year has also brought widespread death and devastation from the borderless climate crisis. The extreme weather events that we have seen in every part of the world — and you all know it and feel it — represent what the secretary-general has rightly called 'code red for humanity,'" Biden told world leaders.

Biden reiterated that scientists and experts are telling the world that "we're fast approaching a point of no return in a literal sense."

"To keep within our reach the vital goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, every nation needs to bring their highest possible ambitions to the table when we meet in Glasgow for COP26," Biden said. "And then we have to keep raising our collective ambition over time."

The US President touted his administration's steps to combat climate change, noting that in April, he announced his country's new goal under the Paris Agreement "to reduce green house gas emissions from the United States by 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030."

"And my administration is working closely with our congress to make critical investments in green infrastructure and electric vehicles that will help us lock in progress at home toward our climate goals," he continued.