February 28, 2024

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The head of the United Nations slammed the “ridiculous greed” of oil and gas companies Wednesday for making record profits from the energy crisis on the backs of the world’s poorest people, “destroying our only home.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was “immoral” that the biggest energy companies in the first quarter of the year made a combined profit of close to $100 billion.

He urged all governments to tax these excess profits “and use the funds to support the most vulnerable people in these difficult times”.

Guterres urged people everywhere to send a message to the fossil fuel industry and their financiers that “this tragic greed is punishing the poorest and most vulnerable people while destroying our only home.”

The secretary-general spoke at the press conference presenting a report by the Global Crisis Response Group that he created to address the triple interconnected crises of food, energy and finance that have particularly hit countries trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and deal with the devastating impact of the war in Ukraine.

The group has already presented recommendations on food and finance, and Guterres said he believed “we are making some progress” in those areas, especially food.

The report released on Wednesday focuses on the energy crisis, and the secretary-general said he aims to achieve the equivalent of the grain deal he initially proposed to the Russian and Ukrainian presidents to allow Ukrainian grain to be shipped from Russian-blocked Black Sea ports to the world markets in desperate need of food supplies. The first ship to leave Ukraine headed for Lebanon on Wednesday after a three-hour inspection in Turkish waters.

In another key recommendation, the group urges wealthier developed countries, in particular, to save energy and promote public transport “and nature-based solutions”.

Guterres said new technologies, including battery storage, “must become public goods” and governments must scale up and diversify supply chains for raw materials and renewable energy technologies.

The group also recommends scaling up private and multilateral financing for the “green energy transition.” And he backed the International Energy Agency’s goal to increase investment in renewable energy by a factor of seven to meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by 2050 to help limit man-made climate change.

“Every country is part of this energy crisis and all countries are paying attention to what others are doing,” Guterres said. “There is no room for hypocrisy.”

He said many developing countries living with severe impacts of the climate crisis, such as storms, fires, floods and droughts, have no reason to invest in renewables but need “concrete, workable options” — and said the developed countries urge them Investments in renewable energy sources do not provide enough social, technical or financial support.

Guterres criticized some of the same developed countries for introducing universal subsidies at petrol pumps and reopening coal plants, saying it was difficult to justify such actions even on a temporary basis.

He said any subsidies and restarting of coal plants “must be strictly time-bound and targeted” to ease the energy burden on the poor and promote the transition to renewable energy.

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