The United Nations Secretary-General has urged countries to levy taxes on fossil fuel companies and channel the money to vulnerable countries that are suffering increasing losses from the climate crisis.
António Guterres said “polluters should pay” for the escalating damage caused by heatwaves, floods, droughts and other climate impacts, and demanded it was “high time to notify fossil fuel producers, investors and enablers”.
“Today I call on all developed economies to tax the unexpected profits of fossil fuel companies,” Guterres said in a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. “Those funds should be funneled in two ways: to countries suffering loss and damage from the climate crisis and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices.”
Guterres’ call came in his most urgent and darkest speech yet about the state of the planet and the will of governments to change course.
His first words were, “Our world is in big trouble.”
‘Let’s have no illusions. We are in rough seas. A winter of global discontent is on the horizon, a cost of living crisis rages, confidence is crumbling, inequalities are exploding and our planet is on fire,” he told the meeting. “We have a duty to act and yet we are caught up in a colossal global dysfunction. The international community is not ready or willing to face the great dramatic challenges of our time.”
The heartbreaking speech, delivered at UN headquarters in New York, echoes calls from activists and the European Union to tax major oil and gas companies that are currently making record profits in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In July, Exxon announced it had made a record quarterly profit of $17.8 billion, while Chevron revealed its own three-month record profit of $11.6 billion. BP made a profit of $8.5 billion during the same period.
Under Guterres’ proposal, tax revenues would flow to primarily developing countries suffering “loss and damage” from global warming, to be invested in early warning systems, disaster recovery and other initiatives to build resilience. to build. Vulnerable countries are poised to use the week of the UN General Assembly to ask rich countries for a “climate-related and justice-based” global tax to pay for losses and damages.
Guterres has previously accused governments of having an “addiction” to fossil fuels and has called new investments in oil, coal and gas “moral and economic madness.”
But Tuesday’s speech was particularly sharp, delivered on the main stage of the general assembly and following the secretary-general’s recent visit to Pakistan, where floods from what he called “a monsoon on steroids” have submerged a third of the country. and displaced millions. from people.
“Our planet is on fire,” Guterres said, calling on world leaders to end their “suicidal war against nature.”
“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time,” he added. “It must be the number one priority of every government and multilateral organization. And yet climate action is being put on the back burner – despite overwhelming public support around the world.”
“We have a deal with a climate catastrophe… Today’s hottest summers could be tomorrow’s coolest summers. One-off climate shocks may soon become an annual event. And in any climate disaster, we know that women and girls are the most affected. The climate crisis is a case study of moral and economic injustice.”
Governments must mount an “intervention” to break their addiction to fossil fuels, Guterres said, targeting not just the extractive companies themselves, but the entire infrastructure of companies that support them.
“So are the banks, private equity, asset managers and other financial institutions that continue to invest and create carbon pollution,” the secretary-general said.
“And it includes the huge public relations machine raking in billions to protect the fossil fuel industry from scrutiny. Just as they did for the tobacco industry decades ago, lobbyists and spin doctors have spread harmful misinformation. Fossil fuel interests need to spend less time averting a PR disaster – and more time averting a planetary disaster.”
Guterres said it was “high time to move beyond endless discussions” and provide funding to vulnerable and wealthy countries to double adaptation funding by 2025, as they pledged to do at UN climate talks in Scotland last year. A next round of talks, called Cop27, will take place in Egypt in November, in which loss and damage will be central.
Although governments have agreed to limit global warming to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial era, almost all countries are lagging behind in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough to avoid this level of heating and thereby avoid catastrophic climate effects.
Emissions have already bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, and an analysis this week showed that there are still plenty of known fossil fuel reserves in the world that have yet to be burned — enough to release 3.5 tons of greenhouse gases, which would cut the carbon budget. destroy before we reach 1.5C seven times.