The current global economic paradigm of infinite growth based on using up a finite amount of resources, such as fossil fuels, will only deliver a “permanent triple whammy of inflation, climate chaos and conflict”, the UN chief warned on Friday.
António Guterres was addressing the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Washington DC, convened by the United States’ top climate envoy, John Kerry, and hosted by President Joe Biden.
The meeting included countries representing 80 per cent of global GDP, population, and greenhouse gas emissions, according to the White House.
An infinite solution
The growth solution was clear, the Secretary-General told representatives: “We do have infinite resources at our disposal when it comes to energy needs. Wind, sun and tides never run out. If we can successfully replace finite, polluting fossil fuels with infinite renewable resources, we can make the energy equation add up.”
He said stable prices and sustainable growth were attainable if renewable energy sources are prioritized. Furthermore, they help reduce carbon emissions and support energy security.
“The time for hedging bets has ended. The world has gambled on fossil fuels and lost”, declared Mr Guterres.
The clear and present danger
Nothing could be more clear, than the danger of fossil fuel expansion today, he added.
“Even in the short-term, it doesn’t make political or economic sense. Yet we seem trapped in a world where fossil fuel producers and financiers have humanity by the throat.
“For decades, many in the fossil fuel industry have invested heavily in pseudo-science and public relations – with a false narrative to minimize their responsibility for climate change and undermine ambitious climate policies.”
He likened the immensely profitable fossil fuel industry to the “scandalous tactics” of Big Tobacco, during the mid-20th century.
“Like tobacco interests, fossil fuel interests and their financial accomplices must not escape responsibility. The argument of putting climate action aside to deal with domestic problems also rings hollow.”
He said earlier that investment in renewables would have avoided today’s predicament following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the huge increase in volatile oil and gas prices worldwide.
“So, let’s make sure the war in Ukraine is not used to increase that dependency. Today’s most pressing domestic problems – like inflation and gas prices – are themselves climate and fossil fuel problems.”
For the second time this week at a major international climate event, he hammered home his five-point plan for a “renewable energy revolution”.
“The climate crisis is our number one emergency”, he said, urging governments to “end the age of fossil fuels”.
“The renewables revolution starts now”, he concluded.