Climate change: New fossil fuel funding is 'delusional' says UN chief

By Matt McGrath
Environment correspondent

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Spending money on new coal, oil and gas as a result of the war in Ukraine is "delusional" according to the UN Secretary General.

Many countries want to increase their own fossil fuel production in order to depend less on Russian supplies.

Mr Guterres says that our global energy mix is broken, and more coal will only reinforce the "scourge of war, pollution and climate catastrophe."

The UN chief says that renewable energy is the peace plan of the 21st century.

In a video message to the sixth Austrian world summit meeting in Vienna, the UN secretary again took countries to task for their continued reliance on fossil fuels.

National plans to reduce carbon emissions were "simply not good enough," Mr Guterres said, pointing to a disconnect between the views of scientists and citizens demanding action and governments that are "dragging their feet."

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has hit out against new fossil fuel investment

The war in Ukraine is seeing a renewed focus on fossil fuels by many countries who are worried about energy security in the wake of Russia's invasion.

A number of countries have signalled that they will burn more coal in the short term, while others are seeking to boost gas imports.

The European Union as a whole is seeking to end reliance on Russian supplies of oil and gas by 2027 but leaders acknowledge this will undoubtedly see more fossil fuel used over the next three years or so.

In his speech, Mr Guterres repeated his view that this short-term response might close the window on a key climate goal.

In the Paris climate agreement, nations agreed to try to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5C this century, compared to pre-industrial times.

But that means that emissions of climate warming gases have to be essentially slashed in half by 2030.

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There has been a rush to secure new supplies of LNG

The war in Ukraine is making that tough target even harder, experts believe.

Mr Guterres argues that new exploration for oil and gas and building more infrastructure for fossil fuels is "delusional."

He re-iterated his previous call for a rapid phase out of coal and a dramatic increase in spending on renewables like wind and solar.

"Had we invested massively in renewable energy in the past, we would not be so dramatically at the mercy of the instability of fossil fuel markets.

The dramatic falls seen in the price of renewables over the past decade contrasted strongly with the rising costs of oil and gas, he added.

Supporting calls by European leaders, Mr Guterres said that red tape and bureaucracies should be rapidly reformed to speed up renewable energy projects.

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Renewable energy is now far cheaper than it was a decade ago

Mr Guterres also called for increased spending on helping poorer countries live with the impacts of climate change.

He said efforts to adapt to rising temperatures should be put on an equal footing with plans to cut emissions.

Climate diplomats are currently meeting in Bonn for the first major gathering since the COP26 conference last November.

There has been much debate on the lack of progress in meeting the goals agreed at the Glasgow climate pact.

A lot of attention has focussed on the question of loss and damage, a phrase that essentially means the types of climate impacts that many developing countries are unable to adapt to.

The meeting will prepare the ground for the next major conference, COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt later this year.

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