Speaking at the General Assembly meeting in New York on Monday, February 6, 2023, UN Secretary-General António Guterres directly targeted the fossil-fuel industry, warning that those without credible net zero targets should not be in business.
The UN General Assembly meets each year from September to December to discuss a full spectrum of international issues. During its 77th Session, Guterres outlined the key priorities for 2023 to ensure a safer, more sustainable world, warning that humanity is closer than ever to total global catastrophe.
“We have started 2023 staring down the barrel of a confluence of challenges unlike any other in our lifetimes. Wars grind on. The climate crisis burns on. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty rage on,” said the UN Chief.
Despite noting the challenges we face this year, Guterres also highlighted that even with the closing time gap, we still have the opportunity to turn things around.
“The good news is that we know how to turn things around – on climate, on finance, on conflict resolution, on and on. And we know that the costs of inaction far exceed the costs of action. But the strategic vision – the long-term thinking and commitment – is missing.”
The UN Chief then turned to directly address the fossil-fuel industry and its enablers, saying: “I have a special message for fossil-fuel producers and their enablers scrambling to expand production and raking in monster profits: If you cannot set a credible course for net-zero, with 2025 and 2030 targets covering all your operations, you should not be in business.”
Labelling fossil fuels as the core problem, he urged the need for a renewables revolution, not a self-destructive fossil fuel resurgence.
Touching on the importance of finance, he went on to say that developed countries, at minimum, have to deliver on the commitments made at the latest COP. The bottom line is, he concluded, “they must stop subsidising fossil fuels and pivot investments to renewables”.
Guterres finished his speech by highlighting the Climate Ambition Summit he will convene in September on the pathway to COP28.
He opened up the invitation to any leader with one condition: “Show us accelerated action in this decade and renewed ambitious net zero plans – or please don’t show up.”
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