New fossil fuel funding ‘delusional’, risking war and climate catastrophe, warns UN secretary general

Renewable energy is ‘peace plan of 21 century’, says Antonio Guterres

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Tuesday 14 June 2022 15:58 BST
New fossil fuel funding 'delusional' and climate 'chaos', warns UN secretary general

Nations funding new fossil fuel projects are "delusional", putting the world on track to miss vital climate targets, and feeding "the scourge of war", the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has warned.

In an address to the Austria World Summit on Tuesday morning, Mr Guterres said the world now "faces climate chaos", and called for all G20 governments to dismantle coal infrastructure and halt funding for any new fossil fuel exploration or infrastructure.

"To keep the 1.5-degree goal within reach, we must reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by mid-century," he said.

"But current national commitments will lead to an increase by almost 14 per cent this decade."

He accused governments in developed countries of "dragging their feet" on slashing emissions despite huge public concern and increasingly dire warnings from scientists.

These policy failures were "leading to a disconnect" between people and governments as the climate crisis worsens, he warned in his climate address to the summit.

"New funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional," he said.

"It will only further feed the scourge of war, pollution and climate catastrophe."

The Austrian World Summit is an annual conference which has run every year since 2017, which aims to help take action to help countries hit their climate goals under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

This year’s summit takes place exactly 30 years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro – widely credited with laying the foundations for international climate cooperation.

Setting out a vision for modern energy policy to steer the world away from the fossil fuels which powered us through the 19th and 20th centuries, Mr Guterres urged faster adoption of renewable energy sources, which he said were cheaper, more reliable and fairer than fossil fuels, "in all regions".

He said: "Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century.

"The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent.

"On the other hand, oil and gas have reached record price levels. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels."

To speed the transition to renewable energy and cut dependence on fossil fuels Mr Guterres put forward a five point plan. This included:

  • Removing intellectual property barriers from renewable technology
  • Improving global supply chains for key components
  • Cutting red tape and implement fast track approvals for wind and solar projects
  • Shifting all government subsidies in fossil fuels to renewable energy
  • Tripling overall investment in renewables

He urged rapid action with half the global population living in climate "danger zones", and said without a fresh push to end the damage we are doing to the natural world we will put ourselves in increasing peril.

Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine demonstrates the urgency with which we must kick our addiction to fossil fuels.

Mr Guterres said: "At a time when we should all come together in the fight for our lives, senseless wars are tearing us apart.

"The energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine has seen a perilous doubling down on fossil fuels by the major economies.

"The war has reinforced an abject lesson: our energy mix is broken."

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