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ClimateGlobal issues

Climate change: UN's Guterres lambasts fossil fuel firms

June 15, 2023

The UN chief urged fossil fuel companies to stop measures which seek to "knee-cap" climate progress. The comments come as the EU said average global temperatures at the start of June were unprecedented.

Exxon Mobil Corporation building in Georgetown, Guyana
The UN chief said fossil fuel giants stand in the way of climate progressImage: Sabrina Valle/REUTERS

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres sharply criticized fossil fuel companies on Thursday for reaping in massive profits while the world faces the imminent threat of global warming. 

"Last year, the oil and gas industry reaped a $4 trillion (€3.6 trillion) windfall in net income," the UN chief said after meeting climate action civil society organizations in New York City. "Yet for every dollar it spends on oil and gas drilling and exploration, only 4 cents went to clean energy and carbon capture — combined."  

Guterres said the fossil fuel industry must engage in a full-blown transformation while moving towards clean energy "and away from a product incompatible with human survival." He said fossil fuel giants must "cease and desist influence peddling and legal threats designed to knee-cap progress." 

Guterres makes veiled criticism of COP28 host UAE   

Sultan al-Jaber, a United Arab Emirates official who will lead the next UN climate summit COP28 in November, has suggested that the focus should be on reducing emissions rather than phasing out fossil fuels entirely. The agenda for the summit is currently being discussed by negotiators in Bonn, Germany

In a thinly veiled critcism of al-Jaber, Guterres said Thursday that the "problem is not simply fossil fuel emissions" but "fossil fuels — period." 

COP28 President-Designate Sultan al-Jaber
The UN chief inexplicitly criticized COP28 President-Designate Sultan al-Jaber's approach to tackling the climate crisis Image: Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images

Al-Jaber serves as the managing director and group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. US and EU lawmakers have urged al-Jaber to be removed from the COP28 event due to his ties to the fossil fuel industry.  

The UN chief said the the world's "collective response" towards climate change remains "pitiful." He alluded to the world facing an average 2.8 degrees Celsius increase this century, far above the 1.5 degree pre-industrial benchmark set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.   

EU: Start of June highest average global temperatures recorded  

Meanwhile, the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said Thursday that average world temperatures at the beginning of June were the highest ever registered for the period. The C3S has some temperature records dated as far back as 1950. 

"The world has just experienced its warmest early June on record, following a month of May that was less than 0.1 degrees Celsius cooler than the warmest May on record," C3S Deputy Director Samantha Burgess said. She also concurred that global temperatures at the start of June exceeded the Paris Agreement 1.5 degree benchmark.

"Every single fraction of a degree matters to avoid even more severe consequences of the climate crisis," Burgess noted. 

wd/jcg (Reuters, AP, AFP)