‘Polluter must pay’: UN secretary general asks for taxes on fossil fuel companies | United Nations

Countries should impose extraordinary taxes on fossil fuel companies and divert money to vulnerable nations suffering worsening losses from the climate crisis, the UN secretary general urged.

António Guterres said that “polluters must pay” for the increasing damage caused by heatwaves, floods, droughts and other climate impacts and asked that “the time has come to warn fossil fuel producers, investors and enablers. “.

“Today, I ask all developed economies to tax the unexpected profits of fossil fuel companies,” Guterres said in a speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. “These funds should be redirected in two ways: to countries suffering losses and damage caused by the climate crisis and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices.”

Guterres’ appeal came in his most urgent and darkest speech to date about the state of the planet and the willingness of governments to change course.

His first words were: “Our world is in big trouble.”

“We do not have illusions. We are in a rough sea. A winter of global discontent looms on the horizon, a cost of living crisis is raging, trust is crumbling, inequalities are exploding and our planet is burning, “he told the assembly.” We have a duty to act and however we are stuck in a colossal global dysfunction. The international community is not ready or willing to face the great dramatic challenges of our age “.

The heartbreaking speech, delivered at the UN headquarters in New York, echoes calls from activists and the European Union to tax major oil and gas companies that are currently making record profits in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In July, Exxon announced it had made a record quarterly profit of $ 17.8 billion, while Chevron reported its record three-month profit of $ 11.6 billion. BP, meanwhile, made a profit of $ 8.5 billion over the same period.

According to Guterres’ proposal, tax revenues would flow to predominantly developing countries suffering “loss and damage” from global warming, to be invested in early warning systems, disaster recovery and other resilience-building initiatives. Vulnerable countries are ready to use the week of the UN General Assembly to demand a global “climate-related and justice-based” tax from rich nations to pay for loss and damage.

Guterres previously accused governments of having a “dependence” on fossil fuels and called new investments in oil, coal and gas “moral and economic madness”.

But his speech on Tuesday was particularly incisive, delivered on the grand stage of the general assembly and after the recent visit by the general secretary to Pakistan, where floods of what he called “a monsoon on steroids” engulfed a third of the country. and displaced millions of people. of people.

“Our planet is burning,” said Guterres, calling on world leaders to end their “suicide war against nature”.

“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time,” he added. “It must be the first priority of every multilateral government and organization. Yet climate action is being overshadowed, despite overwhelming public support around the world. “

“We have a date with the climate disaster … Today’s hottest summers may be tomorrow’s coolest summers. Once-in-a-lifetime climate shocks could soon become annual events. And with every climate disaster, we know that women and girls are the hardest hit. The climate crisis is a case study of moral and economic injustice “.

Governments must organize “intervention” to break their dependence on fossil fuels, Guterres said, targeting not only the extractive companies themselves, but the entire infrastructure of the companies that support them.

“This includes banks, private equity, wealth managers and other financial institutions that continue to invest and underwrite carbon pollution,” said the secretary general.

“And it includes the massive public relations machine that raises billions to protect the fossil fuel industry from scrutiny. Just as they did for the tobacco industry decades earlier, lobbyists and spin doctors spewed out harmful misinformation. Fossil fuel interests need to spend less time averting a public relations disaster and more time averting a global one. “

Guterres said the “time has come to move beyond endless discussions” and provide funding to vulnerable and wealthy nations to double funding for adaptation by 2025, as they pledged to do at UN climate talks. in Scotland last year. Another round of talks, known as COP27, will take place in Egypt in November, where loss and damage will be a central issue.

Although governments have agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C more than in pre-industrial times, almost all countries are lagging behind in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough to avoid this level of warming and therefore avoid catastrophic climate impacts.

Emissions have already rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, and an analysis this week showed that there are many known reserves of fossil fuels in the world yet to be burned, enough to release 3.5 trillion tons of greenhouse gases, which would destroy. the carbon balance before getting to 1.5 ° C seven times.

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