UN Chief calls for phasing out fossil fuels

By Antonio Guterres
United Nations Secretary-General

Your Highness, President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan,

I want to express my profound gratitude for the wonderful hospitality that we are enjoying in Dubai from the government and the people of the United Arab Emirates.

COP28 President Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, I want to congratulate you on the positive start to the COP with an expeditious approval of the agenda and the landmark operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund.

Excellencies, friends,

Just days ago, I was on the melting ice of Antarctica. Not long before, I was among the melting glaciers of Nepal. These two spots are far in distance, but united in crisis. Polar ice and glaciers are vanishing before our eyes, causing havoc the world over: from landslides and floods, to rising seas. But this is just one symptom of the sickness bringing our climate to its knees. A sickness only you, global leaders, can cure. Excellencies, Earth’s vital signs are failing: record emissions, ferocious fires, deadly droughts and the hottest year ever. We are miles from the goals of the Paris Agreement — and minutes to midnight for the 1.5-degree limit.

But it is not too late. You can prevent planetary crash and burn. We have the technologies to avoid the worst of climate chaos, if we act now. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has charted a clear path to a 1.5-degree world. But we need leadership, cooperation, and political will. And we need it now.

Our world is unequal and divided. As we see in this region, conflicts are causing immense suffering and intense emotion. And climate chaos is fanning the flames of injustice. Global heating is busting budgets, ballooning food prices, upending energy markets, and feeding a cost-of-living crisis. Climate action can flip the switch. Renewable energy is the gift that keeps on giving. It is good for our planet, our health, and our economies. Cleaning our air. Meeting the world’s growing energy demand. Connecting millions of people to affordable electricity. Bringing stability and security to markets. And saving money; renewable energy has never been cheaper.

Excellencies, The diagnosis is clear. The success of this COP depends on the Global Stocktake prescribing a credible cure in three areas.

First, drastically cutting emissions. Current policies would lead to an earth-scorching three-degree temperature rise. The Global Stocktake must set clear expectations for economy-wide Nationally Determined Contributions, that cover all greenhouse gases, and align with the 1.5-degree limit. The G20, which represents 80 percent of the world’s emissions, must lead. I urge countries to speed up their net zero timelines, to get there as close as possible to 2040 in developed countries and 2050 in emerging economies.

Second, we cannot save a burning planet with a firehose of fossil fuels. We must accelerate a just, equitable transition to renewables. The science is clear: The 1.5-degree limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce. Not abate. Phaseout — with a clear timeframe aligned with 1.5 degrees. The Global Stocktake must not only commit to that, it must also commit to triple renewables; double energy efficiency; and bring clean energy to all by 2030. The economics are clear: the global shift to renewables is inevitable. The only question is how much heating our planet will endure before it happens.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recommended ending our addiction to coal by 2030 in OECD countries and 2040 for the rest of the world. At the same time, according to the International Energy Agency, the oil and gas industry accounts for just one per cent of clean energy investment.

So, I have a message for fossil fuel company leaders: Your old road is rapidly aging.

Do not double-down on an obsolete business model. Lead the transition to renewables. Make no mistake, the road to climate sustainability is also the only viable pathway to economic sustainability of your companies.

I urge governments to help industry make the right choice — by regulating, legislating, putting a fair price on carbon, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and adopting a windfall tax on profits.

Excellencies, Third, climate justice is long overdue. Developing countries are being devastated by disasters they did not cause. Extortionate borrowing costs are blocking their climate action plans. And support is far too little, far too late.

The Global Stocktake must commit to a surge in finance, including for adaptation and loss and damage. And it must support reform of the multilateral development banks to leverage far more private finance at reasonable costs. Developed countries must show how they will double adaptation finance to $40 billion a year by 2025, as promised, and clarify how they deliver on the $100 billion, as promised.

Excellencies, The climate challenge is not just another issue in your inbox. Protecting our climate is the world’s greatest test of leadership. I urge you to lead.
Humanity’s fate hangs in the balance. Make this COP count.

Thank you.

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