W.Healthy countries risk an “unforgivable missed opportunity” by failing to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic with new green economies to address the climate crisis, the United Nations secretary-general warned.
Before meeting with the leaders of the world’s major economic powers at the G7 summit in the UK, António Guterres said he was concerned that richer nations have invested billions of dollars more in fossil fuels than clean energy since the pandemic, despite its promises of a green economy. Recovery.
“I am more than disappointed, I am worried about the consequences,” Guterres told The Guardian at the UN headquarters in New York, as part of a consortium of Covering Climate Now interviews with NBC News and El País. “We need to make sure we reverse trends, not maintain trends. Now it is clear that we are reaching a point of no return.
“Spending these trillions of dollars and not taking advantage of this opportunity to reverse trends and invest massively in the green economy will be an unforgivable missed opportunity.”
A recent analysis showed that the G7 countries (UK, US, Canada, Italy, France, Germany and Japan) have committed $ 189 billion to support oil, coal and gas, as well as to offer lines financial life to the aviation and automotive sectors, since last year. coronavirus outbreak. This is more than $ 40 billion more than what has been earmarked for renewable energy.
Several leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have emphasized the need for the climate crisis to be critical to Covid recovery, with several cities around the world introducing cyclists and pedestrians into cities. streets previously. dominated by cars.
But while the G7 countries have agreed to halt international financing of coal, the world’s richest nations are pouring billions of dollars into developing gas, another fossil fuel, in the global south at a rate four times that of finance wind or solar projects. With economies beginning to reopen, global warming emissions are expected to rise to the second-largest annual increase in history in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.
Guterres said he welcomed the G7’s commitment, as “many countries are still addicted to coal,” but that much remains to be done in what he called a “watershed year” that will be rounded off with the crucial climate talks of the United States. UN in Scotland. in November.
“We need to abolish fossil fuel subsidies, this is a central issue,” he said. “We have to look at the real costs that exist in the economy, which means a price on carbon. If we do these things, many of the investments made in fossil fuels in the recovery phase will obviously not be profitable. They will be stranded assets with no future. “
A key priority for the UN secretary general at the G7 summit will be lobbying leaders on the contentious issue of climate finance. As part of the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord, rich countries agreed to provide $ 100 billion a year to developing countries to help them adapt to damaging floods, droughts, heat waves, and other impacts of the climate crisis.
However, this money has never been delivered in full, and Guterres said it will be “impossible” to deal effectively with the climate crisis without assistance for the poorest countries. He said the G7 will have to hand over the money to “rebuild trust” with developing nations.
“The $ 100 billion is essential,” said the secretary general. “Climate action has so far focused on mitigation, on reducing emissions. But developing countries have enormous problems adapting to the existing impacts of climate change. “
Guterres said he was hopeful that Joe Biden could mobilize other countries to fulfill commitments on climate aid as the United States continues its reintegration into international climate diplomacy after the presidency of Donald Trump.
But the United States has “a lot to catch up with,” said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh. “Biden does not get a free pass because it is the United States that caused the damage. If he doesn’t comply with the rest of the world, that will be our problem and he will come back to bite him. “
Scientists recently warned that the world could breach, even temporarily, the average temperature increase limit of 1.5 ° C established in the Paris agreement within the next five years. Guterres, however, said that “it is not only possible, it is necessary” to strive to avoid global warming above this threshold, beyond which disastrous climate impacts are expected.
“We still have time, but we are on the brink,” he said. “When you are on the edge of the abyss, you have to make sure that your next step is in the right direction.”