Investment in coal is stupid, and investment in the expansion of fossil fuel production must be stopped, said the secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, in an impassioned speech about climate goals and the failure to achieve them.
Noting that global emissions increased last year by 6 percent, Guterres warned we were “sleepwalking to climate catastrophe,” as quoted by CNBC.
“As major economies pursue an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to replace Russian fossil fuels, short-term measures might create long-term fossil fuel dependence and close the window to 1.5 degrees,” Guterres also said.
“Countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil fuel use. And this is madness: addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction.”
He then went on to lash out at the business world, saying that private companies that invest in coal production “must be held to account.” Guterres also said that not only is such investment stupid because it would lead to stranded assets, but it also went against the Paris Agreement targets.
“Their support for coal not only could cost the world its climate goals. It’s a stupid investment — leading to billions in stranded assets,” the top UN official said, adding that it was “time to end fossil fuel subsidies and stop the expansion of oil and gas exploration.”
In that last point, Guterres echoed a call from the International Energy Agency to end all new oil and gas exploration by the end of 2021. The IEA made the call last March, and only a few months later, was forced to call on oil producers to boost output as demand recovered from pandemic lockdowns much faster than the agency, apparently, expected.
Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel, yet demand for it has soared in the past few months amid the gas crunch in Europe, with prices rising to levels last seen years ago as the world sought to shift to less-polluting natural gas.