The head of the United Nations has launched a scathing attack on the fossil fuel industry, accusing it of betraying future generations and undermining efforts to phase out a product he called “incompatible with human survival”.
Secretary-General António Guterres said that countries must end coal use by 2030 and others by 2040, and switch subsidies and put a price on carbon emissions. He also dismissed the idea of carbon capture as a solution, saying that it would only make fossil fuel companies more efficient planet-wreckers.
“We are hurtling towards disaster, eyes wide open. It’s time to wake up and step up,” he told journalists at UN Headquarters on Thursday, after a meeting with civil society climate leaders from across the world.
He said that limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius is still possible but will require a 45 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. However, current policies will lead to a 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century, which “spells catastrophe”.
He called for immediate global action toward net-zero emissions, which “must start with the polluted heart of the climate crisis: the fossil fuel industry”.
He criticized the industry for its record profits and low investment in clean energy and carbon capture, saying that it was trading the future for thirty pieces of silver.
“Last year, the oil and gas industry reaped a record $4 trillion windfall in net income,” he said. “Yet for every dollar it spends on oil and gas drilling and exploration, only four cents went to clean energy and carbon capture – combined.”
He urged the industry to put forward a credible plan for shifting to clean energy “and away from a product incompatible with human survival”.
“The problem is not simply fossil fuel emissions,” he said. “It’s fossil fuels – period.”
He also warned the industry to stop lobbying and threatening governments to block climate action.
“Fossil fuel companies must also cease and desist influence peddling and legal threats designed to kneecap progress,” he said. “I am thinking particularly of recent attempts to subvert net zero alliances, invoking anti-trust legislation.”
He said that the industry should apply its massive resources “to drive, not obstruct” the global transition to renewable energy.
His comments came as the world experienced record-breaking temperatures and as negotiators prepared for the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.
The summit will be chaired by Sultan al-Jaber, the United Arab Emirates’ minister of industry and chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, who has come under fire from environmentalists and Western lawmakers for his close ties to the fossil fuel industry. Guterres did not mention him by name but hinted at his disagreement with his views on carbon capture.
The UN chief said that he hoped that the summit would result in concrete actions and commitments from all countries to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
He said that he would continue to speak out against fossil fuels and their harmful effects on the planet and its people.
“Trading the future for thirty pieces of silver is immoral,” he said. “And I will not stop saying so.”
– Guterres calls for phasing out fossil fuels to avoid climate ‘catastrophe’ – UN News, June 15, 2023
– UN Chief Says Fossil Fuels ‘Incompatible With Human Survival,’ Calls for Credible Exit Strategy – US News, June 15, 2023
– UN chief says fossil fuels ‘incompatible with human survival,’ calls for credible exit strategy – ABC News, June 15, 2023
– UN chief says fossil fuels are “incompatible with human survival” as world breaks temperature records – TechSpot, June 19, 2023