COVID-19 crisis recovery must support decarbonisation

Taxpayers' money should not be used to subsidise fossil fuels amid COVID-19 recovery: UN chief Antonio Guterres

UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that the taxpayers' money should not be used to subsidise fossil fuels or bail out carbon-intensive industries, stressing that revitalisation from the COVID-19 pandemic should accelerate "decarbonisation" of all aspects of the world economy.

The UN Secretary-General asserted that the economic recovery from the COVID-19 should go hand-in-hand with climate action.

"COVID-19 continues its path of worsening destruction. We mourn the lives lost – more than 200,000. We despair that many more will follow, particularly in places least able to cope," Guterres told reporters.

He stressed that the recovery from the COVID-19 must be such that it helps to steer the world on a safer, healthier, more sustainable and inclusive path.

"It will be critical to address the fragilities, inequalities and gaps in social protection that have been so painfully exposed, and place women and gender equality front and centre if we are to build resilience to future shocks," he said.

"I am calling on Governments to ensure that spending to revitalise economies should accelerate the decarbonisation of all aspects of our economy and privilege the creation of green jobs," the UN Chief said.

"Taxpayers' money should not be used to subsidise fossil fuels or bail out polluting, carbon-intensive industries," he said.

Guterres added that now was the time to put a price on carbon and for polluters to pay for their pollution.

"Public funds should invest in the future, not the past. Financial institutions and investors must take climate risks fully into account," he said.

Guterres also asked all countries, especially the big emitters, to present enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and strategies to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

While this year's international climate conference has been postponed until 2021, Guterres said the nations' ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance "cannot be deferred".

Recalling French diplomat and political leader Jean Monnet's words, he said "it is not a time for blind optimism or paralysing pessimism. Now is the time to be determined. Determined to defeat the COVID-19 and to emerge from this crisis by building a better world for all."

Guterres, who had made a call for global ceasefire in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, said while the ceasefire call has resonated widely, "we know that mistrust remains high, and that it is difficult to move to implementation".

His call for a global ceasefire has received endorsement from 114 governments, regional organisations, religious leaders and more than 200 civil society groups spanning all regions. Among them are 16 armed groups.

However, the UN Chief stressed that all efforts for a global ceasefire depended on strong political backing.

"It is my hope the Security Council will be able to find unity and adopt decisions that can help to make ceasefires meaningful and real," the UN chief said.

He voiced regret that in Libya there has been an escalation despite the Un's efforts and those of many others in the international community.

In Afghanistan also, the UN is pushing hard for a humanitarian ceasefire between the government and the Taliban.

As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the world economy, Guterres advocated a global relief package amounting to a double-digit percentage of the global economy.

The International Monetary Fund has already approved USD 12.3 billion in emergency financing to a first group of 36 developing countries of the more than 100 that requested it.

The World Bank has indicated that with its existing resources, it can provide USD 160 billion of financing over the next 15 months. The G20 has endorsed the suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries.

Guterres said these steps will not be enough and added that he has consistently urged the issuance of new Special Drawing Rights to increase the financial firepower of the Fund.

"The debt moratorium must be extended to all developing countries that are unable to service their debt, including several middle-income countries.

"That initial debt moratorium must be followed by targeted debt relief, and by a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture, to prevent defaults leading to prolonged financial and economic crises," he said. 

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