Fuel companies should pay for climate damage, UN leaders said

Wealthy energy companies should be forced to shell out some unexpected profits to help victims of climate change and offset the rising costs of fuel and food, the UN Secretary-General told world leaders on Tuesday.

The fossil fuel industry, which is responsible for a large share of gases that warm the planet, “is feasting on hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and unexpected profits as household budgets shrink and our planet burns,” Antonio Guterres said in his opening address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

He urged richer countries to tax the profits of energy companies and redirect funds to both “countries suffering losses and damage caused by the climate crisis” and those struggling with rising cost of living.

As countries prepare for international climate talks in November, money is an increasingly important issue, but one that threatens to further divide rich and poor nations. So Guterres suggests fossil fuel companies as the common enemy for a world he called “endangered and paralyzed”.

Oil companies recorded unprecedented profits of billions of dollars a month in July. Exxon Mobil reported three-month profits of $ 17.85 billion Chevron of $ 11.62 billion and Shell of $ 11.5 billion.

“The time has come to warn fossil fuel producers, investors and enablers. The polluter has to pay, ”Guterres said, berating them for massive public relations campaigns.

The idea of ​​an unexpected tax has already taken hold in Europewhere energy companies are making extraordinary profits due to the shortage of supply due to the Russia-Ukraine war. The proposal aims to raise about $ 140 billion to help people with rising energy costs.

The Secretary General’s comments were labeled “misleading and counterproductive” by Frank Maisano, an energy lobbyist. He said many fossil fuel companies are “at the forefront of the clean energy revolution and in most cases driving the innovation needed to bring about an energy transition.”

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the ruling emir of Qatar, criticized “decades of pressure to stop investments in fossil energy before preparing sustainable and green alternatives,” saying the world still needs some more. of carbon energy and touting his country’s expansion of a gas field.

But University of Michigan dean of the environment Jonathan Overpeck called the effort to hold polluters accountable “a great idea.”

“Many fossil fuel companies have made immense profits from generating the global climate crisis and it makes sense that some of these profits go to help those who are suffering the most from the growing number of climate disasters,” Overpeck said.

But even though he’s the head of the United Nations, the only power Guterres has is that of moral persuasion, according to climate scientist Bill Hare, director of Australia-based Climate Analytics.

“Fiscal policy for major economies is generally not adopted by the United Nations,” added Nigel Purvis, veteran international climate negotiator, of climate consultants.

Scientists have warned that greenhouse gas emissions and the world’s dependence on oil, gas and coal must drastically and rapidly decrease for the world to achieve its climate goals.

Guterres also asked developed nations to pay for the losses and damage occurring in the poorest nations, which do little to contribute to climate change but suffer the worst effects. This includes Pakistan, which is still reeling from devastating floods in the south last month caused in part by warming temperatures.

“Losses and damage are happening now, harming people and economies now, and must be addressed now,” Guterres said, adding that 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are produced by the 20 largest economies.

“This is a fundamental issue of climate justice, international solidarity and trust”.

Mohamed Adow, director of climate and energy at the Power Shift Africa think tank, said that “righting wrong is the goal of action against climate change.”

“Taking the profits from climate destruction to address the losses and damage they have caused would be a great first step,” Adow said in an email.

Guterres, along with several nation states most severely affected by climate changeI hope that “loss and damage” – as is known in the climate negotiations – will take priority at the next UN climate summit in Egypt in November, known as COP27.

Guterres, who recently returned after witnessing the floods in Pakistan, “has experienced a deep sense of what the issue of ‘loss and damage’ really means for people on the ground in their daily lives,” said the scientist of the Pakistani climate Fahad Saeed.

“If we in Pakistan are responsible for less than 1% of (carbon) emissions, why do we have to bear the costs of this devastation?” Saeed said in an email. The United States, meanwhile, has been responsible for 21% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions since 1959, according to data from the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists who monitor carbon pollution.

Many smaller nations were disappointed at the previous summit last year, when richer countries, such as the US and Europe, rejected claims for loss and damage.

Earlier this year, COP27 chairman Sameh Shoukry hoped that discussions of summit losses and damage would be “comprehensive, but not contradictory”.

Adow said “the beating of the drums for action to deal with loss and damage is growing,”

“And the longer we see emissions increase,” he added, “the need will only intensify.”


Associated Press authors Aya Batrawy at the United Nations, Frank Jordans in Berlin, and Dana Beltaji in London contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s climate and environmental coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears


The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Find out more about the AP climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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