As the world designs and implements Covid-19 recovery plans, it has a choice of either going back to where it was, or investing in a better, more sustainable future, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday.
Citing the case of India, he said at the International Energy Agency’s Clean Energy Transition Summit that solar auctions have seen popularity amidst the height of the pandemic.
“Today, nations are taking far-reaching decisions as they channel trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into recovery strategies in response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said at the inaugural virtual summit, which brought together ministers from countries, including India and China, representing 80 per cent of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, to discuss measures to boost economies, create jobs, reduce global emissions and make energy systems more resilient.
“As we design and implement these recovery plans, we have a choice. We can go back to where we were, or we can invest in a better, more sustainable future,” the UN chief said.
“We can invest in fossil fuels, whose markets are volatile and whose emissions lead to lethal air pollution.
“Or, we can invest in renewable energy, which is reliable, clean and economically smart.
“I am encouraged that some Covid response and recovery plans put the transition from fossil fuels at their core,” he added.
The European Union and South Korea, he said, have committed to green recovery plans. Nigeria has reformed its fossil fuel subsidy framework. Canada has placed climate disclosure conditions on its bail-out support.
“And a growing number of coalitions of investors and real economy stakeholders are advocating for a recovery aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
“But many have still not got the message,” Guterres said, noting some countries have used stimulus plans to prop up struggling oil and gas companies or to jumpstart coal-fired power plants.
New research on G20 recovery packages released this week shows that twice as much recovery money — taxpayers’ money – has been spent on fossil fuels as clean energy.
“Today I would like to urge all leaders to choose the clean energy route for three vital reasons — health, science and economics,” he said.
“The right decisions can put countries on a much safer and healthier footing. I have asked all countries to consider six climate positive actions as they rescue, rebuild and reset their economies.
“Bailout support to sectors such as industry, aviation and shipping should be conditioned on alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement. We need to stop wasting money on fossil fuel subsidies and place a price on carbon. We need to consider climate risk in our decision making.
Praising India, he said, “Solar auctions have seen popularity amidst the height of the pandemic. India serves as a good example. Renewables offer three times more jobs than the fossil fuel industry.”