In a recent series of interviews with Covering Climate Now partners, the United Nations Secretary General General António Guterres stressed the interconnectedness of the two biggest disasters the world is currently facing – the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis. Now, according to Guterres, the planet is facing a stark choice between continuing as we were, which led up to the crises that we’re battling, or making a deliberate and major change for a better future. Here are some noteworthy words of wisdom the Secretary General shared.
1. We need to “invest massively” in green technologies
While coronavirus has caused terrible challenges and suffering, it presents an opportunity, said Guterres. “We need to invest massively in rebuilding. We can either rebuild as it was — which is a huge mistake because of the fragilities of the world, facing pandemics, climate change, lawlessness in cyberspace, etc.— or we can rebuild a more inclusive and more sustainable economy and society.”
2. Bailouts must incorporate zero-carbon transition plans
Guterres was critical of governments that “unfortunately are still doing bailouts without conditions” to some of the world’s most destructive industries, including fossil fuel companies. There needs to be conditions, he argues, and “one of these conditions is that the company should have a transition plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.”
He went onto add sternly: “Do not use taxpayer money to subsidize fossil fuels…I don’t like to see my money as a taxpayer, in my own country, being used to melt the water of glaciers, or to increase the sea level, or to accelerate the number and the intensity of hurricanes in the Caribbean.”
I don’t like to see my money as a taxpayer, in my own country, being used to melt the water of glaciers, or to increase the sea level, or to accelerate the number and the intensity of hurricanes in the Caribbean.
3. We are capable of major change
The good news is that the world has shown through the pandemic that we can quickly adapt, change and act. All it takes is now applying this same approach to tackle climate change, said the UN Secretary General. “There is a very strong reason for us to show the same capacity to adapt, because of the climate change threat, that is a very real one that we cannot, we cannot neglect.”
There is a very strong reason for us to show the same capacity to adapt, because of the climate change threat, that is a very real one that we cannot, we cannot neglect.
4. The onus is on the “big emitters” to take action
Guterres cites a surprising fact that despite having already 120 countries committed to net-zero by 2050, these countries only make up 25% of the world’s carbon emissions. “Now it’s with the big emitters that we need to act,” he said, without hesitation naming the United States, Europe, China, Russia, Japan and India.
These countries, according to Guterres, must “stop building coal power plants and financing the building of coal power plants by other countries, stop subsidies to fossil fuels, and have massive programmes of investments in renewables and other aspects of the green economy.”
5. Let’s not go back to the old normal
“I want to go back to the normal relations with my family,” Guterres explains. While we might long to return to the everyday life we were used to, we shouldn’t “want to go back to a world where biodiversity is being put into question, to a world where fossil fuels receive more subsidies than renewables, or to a world in which we see inequalities making societies with less and less cohesion and creating instability, creating anger, creating frustration.”
This post is published as a part of Green Queen’s partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
Lead image courtesy of TNS.