Oil Sector 'Peddled Lies' on Climate: UN Sec Gen

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said today some in the oil industry "peddled the big lie" on rising global temperatures, and he compared the sector to tobacco firms that ignored the danger of smoking.

He said the world is on track for a 2.8°C rise in temperature, without further actions, as greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are already at record levels and rising.

"The commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees is nearly going up in smoke," he said. The 2015 Paris climate agreement calls for global warming to stay "well below" a 2°C rise in pre-industrial temperatures and ideally limit it to 1.5°C.

The consequences of increasing temperatures will be devastating, but do not come as a surprise, Guterres said.

"I am not talking only about UN scientists, I am talking about fossil fuel scientists," he said. "We learned last week that certain fossil fuel producers were fully aware in the 1970s that their core product was baking our planet."

"Just like the tobacco industry, they rode rough-shod over their own science, and like the tobacco industry, those responsible must be held to account," he said. But fossil fuel producers are still increasing production, "knowing full well that their business model is inconsistent with human survival".

Guterres also warned about a US-China divide, which he called "a great fracture". But he said it is possible for the two to have meaningful engagement on climate, trade and technology "to avoid the decoupling of economies or even the possibility of future confrontation".

"At the same time, the north-south divide is deepening," Guterres said. "I am not convinced that the wealthier world truly grasps the degree of frustration and anger in the global south." He reiterated that multilateral development banks must change their business model, "concentrate on leveraging private finance systematically through guarantees, and be first risk-takers in coalitions of financial institutions to support developing countries."

"Developed countries must provide financial and technical assistance to help major emerging economies accelerate their renewable energy transition," he said.

But he said the full engagement of the private sector is needed to reach net-zero targets, and that it must avoid "dubious" criteria, as "it leaves the door wide open to greenwashing". Guterres said companies should submit credible and transparent transition plans to reach net zero before the end of the year, adding that emissions cuts should not rely "essentially on carbon credits and shadow markets".

(argusmedia.com, January 18, 2023)

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