Guterres Urges Quick Shift: Fossil Fuels to Renewables


NEW YORK, New York, January 11, 2021 (ENS) – Building a global coalition for carbon neutrality by mid-century will be the United Nation’s “central objective,” the UN’s top official told an online climate conference Monday.

“All countries need credible mid-term goals and plans that are aligned with this objective,” Secretary-General António Guterres said, addressing the virtual COP26 Roundtable on Clean Power Transition. “To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, we need an urgent transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, New York, May 28, 2020 (Photo by Evan Schneider courtesy United Nations)

COP26, the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP26 is considered important as it will be the first COP to take place after the landmark Paris Agreement’s measures took effect and the first opportunity since then for nations to come together to review commitments and strengthen ambition.

The Paris Agreement sets out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°Celsius and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. It also aims to strengthen countries’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change and support them in their efforts. The treaty was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on December 12, 2015 and entered into force on November 4, 2016.

Guterres asked the COP26 Roundtable on Clean Power Transition for a “strong commitment from all governments” to end fossil fuel subsidies, put a price on carbon, shift taxation from people to pollution, and end the construction of coal-fired power plants.

His statement reflects what the UN chief has been working toward during the first four years of his five-year term. His office confirmed on Monday that Guterres will be seeking a second five-year term as UN Secretary-General, a term that would begin in January 2022.

Painting a picture of some 789 million people across the developing world without access to electricity – most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa – Guterres called it “both an injustice and an impediment to sustainable development.”

Guterres signaled “inclusivity and sustainability” as key to the support of African countries. “We need to see adequate international support so African economies and other developing countries’ economies can leapfrog polluting development and transition to a clean, sustainable energy pathway,” he said.

At the same time, he emphasized that all nations need to be able to provide access to clean and renewable energy that prevents “the dangerous heating of our planet.”

Guterres repeated his appeal to developed nations to fulfill their annual pledge for US$100 billion dollars to support climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

Pointing to vulnerabilities faced by Africa – from prolonged droughts in the Sahel and Horn of Africa to devastating floods in the continent’s south – he underscored “the vital importance of adaptation” as “a moral imperative.”

The UN chief said that while only 20 percent of climate finance is earmarked for it, climate adaptation requires “equal attention and investment.”

“The forthcoming Climate Adaptation Summit on January 25 is an opportunity to generate momentum in this much neglected area,” Guterres said.

Among the leaders who have confirmed their attendance at the online Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS) 2021 are French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina.

Other headliners to join the CAS 2021 Opening Session on January 25, either online or, if possible, in person, include Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

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