U.N. chief calls for an end to $7 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies

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Secretary-General António Guterres remarks on Russian termination of the Black Sea Initiative to deliver grain and fertilizers to the world market during a Security Council stakeout at the United Nations Headquarters.

Lev Radin | Lightrocket | Getty Images

“Humanity has opened the gates to hell. Horrendous heat is having horrendous effects.”

So said António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, in his opening remarks to the Climate Ambition Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Wednesday.

At the summit, Guterres outlined a program he calls the “Acceleration Agenda” to close the gap between what is currently happening to address climate change and what he believes needs to happen — including an end to fossil fuel subsidies around the globe, which topped $7 trillion in 2022, according to analysis from the International Monetary Fund.

Burning fossil fuels release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, which is a key driver in climate change.

“We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels,” Guterres said.

Globally, there has been an unprecedented amount of investment in clean energy sources, and that is encouraging, “but we are decades behind,” Guterres said, calling on developed nations to reach net zero emissions as close as possible to 2040, and for emerging economies, 2050.

Specifically, Guterres said OECD nations need to have plans to stop burning coal by 2030 and the rest of the world needs to stop burning coal by 2040.

“If nothing changes, we are heading towards a 2.8 degree temperature rise — towards a dangerous and unstable world,” Guterres said, speaking of 2.8 degrees Celsius, or more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

He also called for putting a price on carbon and for businesses and financial institutions to meet the climate pledges they have made.

“The future is not fixed,” he said. “It is for leaders like you to write. We can still limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees. We can still build a world of clear air, green jobs and affordable clean power for all.”

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