In Davos, UN chief says end our addiction to fossil fuels

DAVOS: Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, used his speech last Wednesday at the World Economic Forum (also known by its acronym “WEF”) in Davos, Switzerland, to urge world leaders and businesses to step up their efforts to achieve net zero carbon.

He also asked business leaders to provide “credible and transparent” plans by the end of the year on how they intend to get to that zero level.

António Guterres warned that many companies have defined their climate targets based on “doubtful or unclear” criteria, which can “mislead consumers, investors and regulators with false narratives”.

“This fuels a culture of misinformation and confusion about the climate and leaves the door open for greenwashing. [technique de marketing utilisée par une organisation dans le but de se donner une image écologique trompeuse, NDLR]he told delegates at the WEF’s annual meeting.

“The transition to net zero must be based on real emission reductions and not rely primarily on carbon credits and parallel markets. That’s why we [l’ONU] created a Group of Experts on Zero Net Commitments.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2023. (Reuters)

Antonio Guterres has warned that time is running out to prevent man-made climate-related disasters from growing in scale and becoming more frequent.

“We’re in the crosshairs of a Category 5 storm,” he said.

To avoid the worst effects of climate change, scientists say any rise in global temperatures should be limited to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The planet’s average surface temperature has already increased by about 1.8°C since the end of the 19th century.

Guterres urged the world to “end dependence on fossil fuels”. He warned that the ambitious target of limiting warming to 1.5°C was “going up in smoke”.

“Fossil fuel producers and those who support them continue to rush to expand production, knowing full well that this economic model is incompatible with the survival of humanity,” he said.

“This madness is science fiction, when we know that ecosystem collapse is concrete, brutal science fact.”

The Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted by 196 countries at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), committed countries to step up their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% before 2030.

It also obliged them to build resilience against the adverse effects of climate change, to support and promote regional and international cooperation in efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C, as well as to achieve net zero by 2050.

To date, 137 countries have committed to achieving carbon neutrality, according to data from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, an independent UK consultancy. Of these, 124 have set targets for 2050.

Bhutan and Suriname are the only two nations so far that have achieved carbon neutrality and are, in fact, carbon negative. Twenty-four countries have made their climate targets official policy. Among them are Brazil, China, Germany and the United States, which are among the largest emitters in the world. Five countries are currently preparing legislation, including Canada, South Korea and several member states of the European Union.

However, even if the 193 parties to the Paris Agreement implement their existing commitments, it is estimated that global greenhouse gas emissions will still increase by around 11% by 2030 compared to 2010.

This text is a translation of an article published on

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