Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness, the UN secretary general said today.
Antonio Guterres was speaking at the launch of the latest landmark climate change report, which said emissions must peak in just three years to keep global warming below 1.5C.
He said fossil fuel investments would soon be stranded assets: “a blot on the landscape, and a blight on investment portfolios”.
His comments come as the UK government prepares to publish its energy security strategy, with a focus on North Sea oil and gas production and pressure from some Conservatives for a new look at onshore fracking.
But Mr Guterres criticised governments and industries that were increasing fossil fuel production.
“Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals”, he said.
“But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.
“Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic.”
He said high-emitting governments and corporations were not just turning a blind eye; “they are adding fuel to the flames”.
Emissions in the last decade were highest in history, though the rate of growth has slowed.
Today’s report was “a litany of broken climate promises”, Mr Guterres said.
Current energy policies would result in more than double the emissions needed to restrict warming to the internationally agreed level of 1.5C, he said.
But to meet the limit, global emissions must peak by 2025 and be cut by 45% by 2030.
The report, authored by 278 scientists and citing 18,000 papers, concluded:
- Coal must be phased out if the world is to stay within 1.5C
- Current and planned new fossil fuel infrastructure would cause the world to exceed 1.5C
- Methane emissions must be reduced by a third by 2030
- Growing forests and preserving soils will be necessary – but tree-planting cannot do enough to compensate for continued emissions for fossil fuels
- There have been dramatic declines in the price of solar, wind and batteries
- All sectors of the global economy must change dramatically and rapidly
- Behaviour change to diets, living and travel can also reduce emissions
This was the third landmark assessment from the IPCC in the past eight months and the most contentious because it covers policies, technology and finance needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The previous two looked at causes and impacts of climate changes. Part 1, in August 2021, warned that the world had only a narrow chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C. The UN secretary general described it as a code red for humanity. Part 2, in February 2022 illustrated the impact of heating of 1.5C.
“Now or never”
Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III, which released the latest report, said:
“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5C. Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
He said there were the first signs that people’s actions people were starting to make a difference.
“The big message we’ve got [is that] human activities got us into this problem and human agency can actually get us out of it again.”
The IPCC chair, Hoesun Lee, said:
“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future,”
Rachel Kennerley, international climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth
“Boris Johnson has a golden opportunity to put our collective future front and centre as part of his upcoming energy review. Rolling out renewable energy widescale, alongside a nationwide programme to insulate the UK’s homes, is one of the quickest and cheapest climate solutions. Not only will this help to protect the planet, but can also end our reliance on expensive gas and bring down sky-high bills.”
Mary Church, Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns
“Today’s UN report is another stark warning that the likelihood of avoiding 1.5°C is shrinking fast. Deep emissions cuts are needed now, and the message at the heart of this latest study is that we must say no to all new oil and gas, put an end to fossil fuel subsidies and urgently start delivering a just transition for impacted communities.”
“The report is clear on what the solutions are: Dramatically cut fossil fuel use; cut energy waste; cut meat consumption; turbocharge homegrown renewables and clean transport.”
Stop Climate Chaos
“Government action to reduce emissions immediately and phase out fossil fuels must begin now – not in ten years’ time.”
Nafkote Dabi, climate policy lead at Oxfam
“We need extraordinary cuts in the use of fossil fuels to meet our emissions targets, and that entails a dramatic shift towards sustainable renewable energy. The recent push to increase production of oil, gas and coal and backtrack on climate measures because of the crisis in Ukraine — and even to delay net-zero — is shortsighted folly.”
Fionna Smyth, head of global policy and advocacy at Christian Aid
“The invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s control of European gas usage, has shown the folly of having a global economy reliant on fossil fuels. A shift towards decentralised, clean and ever cheaper renewables would help build a more peaceful world and also tackle the cause of the climate crisis.”
Yolande Wright, global director of poverty and climate change at Save the Children
“Leaders of the richest countries and historical emitters must take responsibility. Without immediate drastic action to curb global emissions, children are burdened with the most dangerous impacts of the climate crisis.”