UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ with continued use of fossil fuels

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ with continued use of fossil fuels

WASHINGTON — Countries are “sleeping to climate catastrophe” if they continue to rely on fossil fuels, and nations rushing to replace Russian oil, gas and coal with their dirty energy are making matters worse, the United Nations said. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday.

The ambitious promises made by world leaders at a climate summit in Glasgow last year were “naive optimism”, Mr Guterres said. Nations are nowhere near the goal of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 °C by the end of this century. This is the limit beyond which scientists say the potential for catastrophic effects increases significantly. The planet has already warmed by an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius.

And the pollution that is dangerously warming the planet continues to increase. He said global emissions will increase by 14 percent in the 2020s, and emissions from coal continue to rise.

“The 1.5 degree target is on life support. It is in intensive care,” Mr Guterres said in remarks at a summit The Economist is hosting on sustainability via video address.

“We are sleeping to climate catastrophe,” he said. “If we continue like this, we could kiss 1.5 goodbye. Even 2 degrees could be out of reach. And that would be catastrophe.”

Mr Guterres’ speech comes as the EU is trying to find ways to reduce its reliance on Russian oil and gas, and countries such as the United States are hand-in-hand to increase fossil fuel production to stabilize energy markets. are scrambling. President Biden and European leaders have said that short-term needs will not affect their long-term vision of shifting to wind, solar and other renewable sources that do not produce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.

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But the UN secretary-general said he fears the strategy jeopardizes the goal of a rapid reduction in fossil fuel burning. Scientists have said that keeping the planet at a safe level means reducing emissions around the world by 45 percent by 2050.

In November in Glasgow world leaders pledged to halt climate change and, for the first time, plan to “phasing out” coal – the dirtiest fossil fuel. The leaders of 100 countries also pledged to stop deforestation by 2030, a move that is seen as important because trees absorb carbon dioxide. The United States, Europe and nearly 100 other countries also said they would cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas produced from oil and gas operations.

But there has been almost no progress, Mr Guterres said. Furthermore, the rich countries most responsible for polluting the planet have not fulfilled their obligation to help the poorest countries to develop clean energy – already “outraged” by high inflation, rising interest rates and debt. ” Is.

At the same time, he warned, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is upsetting global energy markets, and further undermining climate targets.

“As major economies adopt an ‘above’ strategy to replace Russian fossil fuels, short-term measures could create long-term fossil fuel dependence and close the window by 1.5 degrees,” Mr Guterres said.

He cautioned that countries may be so focused on the urgent need to fill the gap between oil, gas and coal that “they neglect or kneel down to policies to cut fossil fuel use.”

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“This is madness,” he said. “Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually definite destruction.”

Last week the International Energy Agency warned that the world was facing its first global energy crisis, and recommended that major economies conserve energy by implementing 10 strategies, from carpooling to traveling by train instead of airplane. do.

In his speech, Mr Guterres said wealthier nations should eliminate coal infrastructure to eliminate it completely by 2030, with other countries doing so by 2040. He called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and a halt to new oil and gas exploration. Mr Guterres also said that private sector financing for coal must end.

“Their support for coal may not only cost the world its climate goals,” he said. “It’s a stupid investment – billions of dollars are trapped.”

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil and gas companies, said in a statement that the industry “can responsibly develop America’s vast resources while at the same time reducing emissions to address climate change.” “

President Biden has promised a rapid clean energy transition in the United States, but it hasn’t started yet. The Build Back Better Act, a law he enacted to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, is stalled in Congress. Meanwhile, his plan to stop the new oil and gas lease has faced challenges in the courts.

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