Guterres: UN Secretariat doesn’t take money from oil, gas industry

In this Aug 1, 2022 photo, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres makes remarks before the 2022 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in the United Nations General Assembly. (YUKI IWAMURA / AP)

UNITED NATIONS – The UN secretary-general said on Wednesday that the secretariat of the global body does not take money from the oil and gas industry.

"I can guarantee that the UN Secretariat does not (take money from the oil and gas industry)," Antonio Guterres told reporters. "Our orientation has been for the Pension Fund to entirely divest from the fossil fuel system, which started by divesting from coal. And I believe they already reached full divesting from the fossil fuel industry in general."

He strongly recommended the UN agencies not to receive any contribution from those “that we consider have played the most important role in the climate change”.

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He also called for taxation on windfall profits of oil and gas companies to ease the impact of the energy crisis on the most vulnerable people.

I urge all governments to tax these excessive profits (from energy crisis) and use the funds to support the most vulnerable people through these difficult times.

Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general 

"It is immoral for oil and gas companies to be making record profits from this energy crisis on the backs of the poorest people and communities and at a massive cost to the climate," he said at the launch of the third report of his Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance over the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"I urge all governments to tax these excessive profits and use the funds to support the most vulnerable people through these difficult times," he said, noting that the combined profits of the largest energy companies in the first quarter of this year are close to $100 billion. 

All countries, and especially developed countries, must manage energy demand. Conserving energy, promoting public transport and nature-based solutions are essential components of that, said the UN chief.

There is also a need to accelerate the transition to renewables, which in most cases are cheaper than fossil fuels. At the same time, private and multilateral finance for the green energy transition must be scaled up, he said.

Every country is part of this energy crisis, and all countries are paying attention to what others are doing. There is no place for hypocrisy, said the UN chief.

Developing countries don't lack reasons to invest in renewables. Many of them are living with the severe impacts of the climate crisis. What they lack are concrete, workable options. 

Meanwhile, developed countries are urging them to invest in renewables, without providing enough social, technical or financial support, he said.

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Some of those same developed countries are introducing universal subsidies at gas stations, while others are reopening coal plants. It is difficult to justify such steps even on a temporary basis, he said. 

Autorickshaw drivers line up to buy gas near a fuel station in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 13, 2022. Some 1.6 billion people in 94 countries face at least one dimension of the crisis in food, energy and financial systems, according to a recent report by the Global Crisis Response Group of the United Nations Secretary-General. (ERANGA JAYAWARDENA / AP)

"If they are pursued, such policies must be strictly time-bound and targeted, to ease the burden on the energy-poor and the most vulnerable, during the fastest possible transition to renewables."

The Ukraine conflict, apart from the damage within the country, is having a huge and multi-dimensional impact far beyond the borders, through a three-fold crisis of access to food, energy and finance, he said.

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Household budgets everywhere are feeling the pinch from high food, transport and energy prices, fueled by climate breakdown and war. This threatens a starvation crisis for the poorest households, and severe cutbacks for those on average incomes, he said.

Many developing countries are drowning in debt, without access to finance, and struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and could go over the brink. There are already the warning signs of a wave of economic, social and political upheaval that would leave no country untouched, Guterres warned.