UN chief calls for climate Marshall Plan — Analysis

Antonio Guterres warns that business as usual will ‘incinerate our only home’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a moratorium on the use of oil, gas, and coal in favor of renewable energy, arguing that humanity must “Before we go to the grave, end carbon fuel pollution and speed up the transition to renewable energy before our sole home is destroyed” in pre-recorded remarks released on Wednesday to coincide with the State of the Global Climate report by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

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The WMO warned that four of seven key climate change indicators had reached record highs last year: greenhouse gas concentration, sea level rise, ocean heat, and ocean acidification. The last seven years were the warmest on record, and WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said it was “It is only a matter time until we have another record-breaking year.

Guterres outlined a five-point plan to put the world on track for a renewable energy revolution, suggesting investment in the sector be tripled to a whopping $4 trillion per year and arguing renewables technology should also be treated as “Public goods worldwide” rather than intellectual property to be monetized. An international coalition of industry, tech and financial institutions should band together with governments to “Fast-track innovation, development and invention,” he said.

Fossil fuels are a “End of the road,” Guterres insisted, calling the WMO’s report a “dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption” and demanding that fossil fuel subsidies have got to go. He highlighted the $11 million the coal, oil and natural gas industries are reported to receive per minute. He also exhorted banks to make sure their portfolios align with the Paris Climate Treaty instead of pursuing short-term returns through fossil-fuel investments. Renewable energy must become “The peace project for the 21st Century,” the UN chief argued, calling renewables “The only way to energy security is stable electricity prices and employment opportunities..”

Even though there has been a lot of effort to shift towards renewable energy, only 8% of the global electricity production is still generated by solar or wind. Other types of renewables like hydropower bring it up to 30%. Regulatory “Reduce red tape” is also a problem, Guterres complained, noting that it takes eight years to approve a wind-energy project in Europe, while it can take as long as 10 years in the US.

Specific problems related to scaling up renewables – such as a means of storing wind and solar energy to be drawn on when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining – have yet to be adequately addressed by the industry. The environment is being impacted by the way that raw materials are extracted for the production of solar cells and batteries for electric cars and other vehicles, like lithium, copper silicon, nickel cobalt and rare earth minerals. 

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As the UN calls for its climate Marshall Plan, the World Economic Forum has been demanding similar actions to put an end to what it calls the “Existential threat to planet.” Suggestions ranging from reducing the cost of public transit and encouraging walking and cycling to reducing highway speed limits by 10km per hour make up the organization’s 10-point Great Reset plan for reducing dependence on fossil fuels. 

Wednesday’s report is far from the only climate catastrophe predicted by UN-linked climate organizations. Last week, the UN published a paper warning that upwards of 700 million people could become “climate refugees” by 2030 if worsening water shortages associated with climate change were not addressed.

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