Back clean energy post-virus, UN chief urges leaders

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
Michael Tewelde / AFP

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday urged world leaders to favour clean energy solutions as they pour money into their economies to save them from a coronavirus-induced meltdown.

Governments should exit coal, stop subsidising other fossil fuels, and pressure polluting industries to clean up their act in exchange for bailing them out, the UN Secretary-General told an International Energy Agency conference by video link.

"Today I would like to urge all leaders to choose the clean energy route for three vital reasons - health, science and economics," Guterres said.

"Bailout support to sectors such as industry, aviation and shipping should be conditioned on alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement," he said, referring to the 2015 treaty that commits signatories to capping global warming at 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

"We need to stop wasting money on fossil fuel subsidies and place a price on carbon," Guterres said, adding that "coal has no place in Covid-19 recovery plans".

He also called on investors "to demand that companies reveal transition plans to reach net zero emissions" and said that renewables offered "three times more jobs than the fossil fuel industry".

Governments across the world have pledged unprecedented sums to support their economies to cope with the fallout from Covid-19, with many politicians and NGOs calling for green policies to become an integral part of the spending plans.

The European Parliament, for example, has urged EU governments to put "the green deal at the core" of their proposed €750-billion recovery plan.

In Germany, where the government has agreed to rescue flagship airline Lufthansa, the environment minister said that climate-friendlier policies by the airline would be part of the deal.

In neighbouring Austria, the government made "necessary measures in terms of climate protection" a condition for bailing out Austrian Airlines.

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