Science & Environment

Clean energy future 'is vital' - UN chief

Antonio Guterres Image copyright Getty Images

The UN Secretary-General has told a meeting of ministers it is "vital" the world moves towards clean energy.

Antonio Guterres said decisions on recovery strategies must account for the need to transition to a more sustainable future.

He was speaking at the International Energy Agency's (IEA) Clean Energy Transitions Summit.

The virtual meeting is being billed as the year's largest global gathering on energy and climate.

"Stop wasting money on fossil fuel subsidies and place a price on carbon", Mr Guterres urged.

Representatives from the US, China, the EU, Japan and the UK were all in attendance.

The UN chief told the meeting that new analysis of G20 recovery packages shows that twice as much recovery money has been spent on fossil fuels as clean energy.

Coal out in the cold

Mr Guterres praised the EU, South Korea and Nigeria for their efforts to encourage the development of renewable energy but said pointedly that many countries had "still not got the message".

"Some countries have used stimulus plans to prop up oil and gas companies that were already struggling financially," he said. "Others have chosen to jumpstart coal-fired power plants that don't make financial or environmental sense."

His message was unambiguous: "Coal has no place in Covid-19 recovery plans."

The Secretary-General did not mention any nations by name but, in the US, the White House has been cutting back environmental protections while China has given the green light to a slew of new coal plants.

Mr Guterres outlined what he said were the three "vital reasons" to choose clean energy.

He said air pollution is already causing close to nine million early deaths each year and shortening human lifespans by three years - a heavier toll than tobacco, the UN chief claimed.

He said the ever-growing scientific evidence of the increasing toll of climate disruption was another reason.

And finally, he said the world needs to transition from fossil fuels for economic reasons.

"The business case for renewable energy is now better than coal in virtually every market," Mr Guterres told the meeting.

He concluded his speech by urging the meeting to commit to no new coal today and for all the countries present to stop providing finance for coal in the developing world.

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