The UN chief accused energy giants of “feasting on hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfall profits while household budgets shrink and our planet burns.”
Guterres’ comments, at the UN General Assembly in New York, come on the heels of a European Union proposal to introduce a windfall tax on oil, gas and coal companies, many of which have reported record-high profits as Russia’s war in Ukraine and an energy crunch send prices soaring.
“Today, I am calling on all developed economies to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies,” Guterres told the Assembly. “Those funds should be redirected in two ways: to countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis, and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices.”
Typhoons and hurricanes have brought floods to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Japan this week. Drought is impacting vast swathes of the United States, China and Europe.
Record profits, rising inequality
Guterres warned that a “winter of global discontent is on the horizon,” with inequality “exploding” and the cost-of-living crisis “raging” while the planet burns.
“We need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account,” he added. “That includes the banks, private equity, asset managers and other financial institutions that continue to invest and underwrite carbon pollution.”
The UN General Assembly is likely to be dominated by Russia’s war in Ukraine. The climate crisis, nonetheless, will be unavoidable, intersecting with several issues on the agenda, including energy and food security.
“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time,” Guterres said. “And it must be the first priority of every government and multilateral organization. And yet climate action is being put on the back burner — despite overwhelming public support around the world.”