As Pope Francis called on global financial leaders to help keep dirty energy in the ground, the United Nations chief said Tuesday that fossil fuel subsidies amount to “using taxpayers’ money… to destroy the world.”
“Climate disruption is upon us, and it is progressing faster than our efforts to address it,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in Vienna at the climate-focused R20 Austrian World Summit.
While near-daily global disasters including floods, droughts, and wildfires make clear that the impacts of the climate crisis are already occurring, Guterres said, “there is a silver lining to the looming cloud.”
That’s because “if we do what we must to combat climate change, the benefits for societies around the world would be profound,” he said, pointing to “cleaner water and air” and “reduced biodiversity loss.”
But the scope of the task at hand is huge, explained Guterres, as it necessitates a total transformation of all aspects of society.
“What is needed for effective mitigation and improved resilience,” he said, “is quite simply a rapid and deep change in how we do business, how we generate power, how we build cities, and how we feed the world.”
Another key change, said Guterres, is to stop using taxpayer funds to prop up the coal, oil, and gas industries.
“We need to tax pollution, not people, and to end subsidies for fossil fuels.”
—U.N. Secretary General António Guterres”We need to tax pollution, not people, and to end subsidies for fossil fuels,” said Guterres. He also debunked the wrongful assumption by some that fossil fuel subsidies improve people’s lives.
“There is nothing more wrong than that,” he said. “What we are doing is using taxpayers’ money—which means our money—to boost hurricanes, to spread droughts, to melt glaciers, to bleach corals. In one word—to destroy the world.”
“As taxpayers,” continued Guterres, “I believe we would like to see our money back rather than to see our money used to destroy the world.”
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