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UN’s Guterres says ‘polluters must pay’, calls for tax on fossil fuels


Antonio Guterres photographed in New York last September. On Tuesday, he said fossil fuel companies and their “instruments” need to be held accountable.

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The United Nations Secretary-General on Tuesday said developed economies should levy an additional tax on the profits of fossil fuel companies, with funds going to countries affected by the change. climate and households are struggling with the cost of living crisis.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Antonio Guterres described the fossil fuel industry as “eating hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and profits while household budgets shrunk and our planet burned.”

He went on to highlight fossil fuel companies and their “activators”. “That includes banks, private equity, asset managers and other financial institutions that continue to invest in and tackle carbon pollution.”

It also includes what he calls “a massive public relations machine that rakes in billions of dollars to protect the fossil fuel industry from scrutiny.”

Despite the above statements, Guterres seems to acknowledge the reality of the current situation, in which coal, oil and gas continue to play an important role in the modern world, in both developed economies. and emerging.

Of course, fossil fuels can’t stop working overnight. “A just transition means leaving no individuals or countries behind. But it’s time to pay attention to fossil fuel producers, investors and producers.”

“Polluters have to pay. And today, I call on all developed economies to tax profits from companies that use fossil fuels.”

Guterres said these funds should be redirected to “countries that are suffering the loss and damage caused by the climate crisis; and to those struggling with rising food and energy prices”.

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Guterres’ speech on Tuesday reinforces comment he came back in August when he said that “it is immoral for oil and gas companies to make record profits from this energy crisis on the backs of the poorest people and communities and pay such a huge price for the climate virtue.”

“The total profit of the largest energy companies in the first quarter of this year was nearly 100 billion US dollars,” he added. “I urge all governments to tax these excessive profits and use the funds to support the most vulnerable through these difficult times.”

The concept of a one-time or one-time tax on energy companies has gained traction for several quarters over the past few months, with the sector recording huge profits amid soaring commodity prices, in as many households and businesses struggle with rising energy. bills and a broader cost of living crisis.

In May, for example, the UK’s former finance minister, Rishi Sunak, published details of what he called “temporary, targeted energy gain” for oil and gas companies.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: it proposed “limiting the revenue of companies that produce low-cost electricity.” These businesses, she argues, are “generating revenue that they never counted on, they never even dreamed of.”

“And don’t get me wrong: In our social market economy, profits are OK, they’re good,” added von der Leyen. “But in these times, it is wrong to receive extraordinary, record-breaking sales and profits that benefit from war and from our consumer side.”

“In these times, the profit must be shared and transferred to those who need it most. And so our proposal also includes fossil fuel power producers, who must contribute to it. crisis.”

Overall, von der Leyen said the proposal would raise more than 140 billion euros, or about $140.1 billion.

While such actions and initiatives have supporters, there are also opponents. For example, after Sunak announced its plans, Offshore Energies UK said the tax would “disincentivize UK offshore energy investments, which means reducing oil and gas exploration and production , and thus forced to increase imports.”

The debate and discussion about the role of fossil fuels in the planet’s energy mix is ​​a direct one and is likely to continue in the years to come.

This early year, Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters admits most people will sign up for what he calls a “simple transition”.

“Those are two words that really matter… it both means fair, it also means doable,” Winters, who spoke to CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore at the City Week forum in London, said. “And forward means forward – it means it takes a while.”

“The idea that we can turn off the taps and end fossil fuels tomorrow is clearly absurd and naive,” Winters said. “Well, first of all, it’s not going to happen and second, it’s going to be very disruptive.”

Winters went on to say that it would be good for climate change, but “not good for war, revolution and human life because you’ve… devastated.” He argued that the “final divestment plan” was unnecessary.



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