UN leader accuses fossil fuel companies of business models ‘inconsistent with human survival’ | Davos 2023

The head of the United Nations has accused the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies of refusing to abandon a business model that is at odds with human survival despite knowingly steering the world on a course of climate collapse decades ago.

Speaking at a summit of business and political leaders in Davos, UN Secretary-General António Guterres strongly attacked the world’s leading oil companies, many of which are represented at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Swiss resort.

Guterres said recent revelations that ExxonMobil knew as far back as the 1970s that its core product was “burning our planet” made “big oil” similar to tobacco companies who knew smoking caused cancer.

“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,” he said.

Guterres from the UN: oil companies spread a ‘big lie’ about the climate crisis – video

“Today, fossil fuel producers and their enablers are still racing to expand production, knowing full well that their business model is incompatible with human survival. This madness belongs in science fiction, but we know that ecosystem collapse is cold, hard scientific fact.”

The need to speed up progress in the global fight to keep temperatures from rising above 1.5C was one of the themes of the Davos meeting, but the UN chief said many of the pledges by companies to achieve net zero carbon amounted to greenwashing.

Guterres said that meeting the climate goals agreed by the international community requires the full engagement of the private sector and acknowledged that more and more companies are making net zero commitments.

“But the benchmarks and criteria are often dubious or unclear. It misleads consumers, investors and regulators with false stories. It feeds a culture of climate misinformation and confusion. And it leaves the door wide open to greenwashing.”

Corporate leaders should come up with credible and transparent plans to reach net zero by the end of the year, the UN chief said, adding that relying on carbon credits does not translate into “real” reductions in emissions.

Rising energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have led some countries to step up their use of coal as a substitute for expensive gas, but Guterres warned the world was in a race against time to reduce carbon emissions.

“The battle to maintain the 1.5 degree limit will be won or lost in this decade. On our watch. My friends, it’s getting lost right now.

“We must act together to close the emissions gap. Phase out coal and step up the revolution of renewable energy sources. To end dependence on fossil fuels. And stop our self-defeating war against nature.”

Guterres said restoring trust meant “meaningful climate action”, as he called on rich countries to meet their $100bn climate finance pledge to help developing countries – which face the brunt of the climate crisis – cope with the crisis.

“Finances for adaptation must be doubled. And the biggest emitters – namely the G20 countries – must unite around a climate solidarity pact in which they will make additional efforts in the 2020s to keep the 1.5 degree limit alive.”

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