In a speech in Davos, the head of the UN condemned the expansion of the fossil fuel industry


The UN Secretary General accused fossil fuel producers and their financial backers of “racing to expand production, knowing full well that their business model is incompatible with human survival.”

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, António Guterres said the commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels was “going up in smoke”.

“We are flirting with climate catastrophe. Every week brings a new climatic horror story,” he said.

Guterres directly blamed the fossil fuel industry when he addressed the Davos crowd of billionaires, politicians and business leaders, including dozens of senior executives from the world’s biggest oil and gas companies.

“We learned last week that certain fossil fuel producers were fully aware in the 1970s that their primary product was burning our planet,” he said, alluding to analysis that showed ExxonMobil scientists accurately predicted future global warming in decades-old reports, despite the company has continued to publicly cast doubt on climate science and lobby against climate action for years.

“Just like the tobacco industry, they have been rude to their own science. Big Oil sold a big lie. And like the tobacco industry, those responsible must be held accountable,” Guterres said at the conference.

It is not clear whether ExxonMobil has a representative in Davos. None are on the official list of participants, and the company did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement to CNN last week about the analysis, Todd Spitler, a company spokesman, said, “ExxonMobil is committed to being part of the solution to climate change and the risks it poses,” and “those talking about how” Exxon knew they were wrong.”

The World Economic Forum has made climate one of the themes of this year’s gathering in the Swiss mountain resort, with a series of panel discussions devoted to topics such as energy transition and sustainability.

But Guterres warned that many companies set climate targets based on “dubious or unclear” criteria.

“This is misleading consumers, investors and regulators with false stories. It feeds a culture of climate misinformation and confusion. And it leaves the door wide open for greening,” he said.

A new report published on Tuesday by the Reclaim Finance campaign found that dozens of banks and financial institutions with net zero pledges are still investing money in fossil fuels.

The report analyzes financial organizations that have signed the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero pact, agreeing to align their investments with the ambition of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees – a key agreement reached at the 2021 COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. However, since signing, it has been established that members have invested hundreds of billions in fossil fuels.

Guterres called on companies to “present credible and transparent transition plans on how to achieve net zero” by the end of 2023.

As the Davos meeting continues, a group of international climate activists, including Uganda’s Vanessa Nakate, Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, Ecuador’s Helena Gualinga and Germany’s Luisa Neubauer, have launched a “cease and desist” petition, calling on fossil fuel CEOs to “place stop opening new oil, gas or coal sites and stop blocking the transition to clean energy.” The petition has been signed by 800,000 people and is growing.

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