UN chief says the dash for new fossil fuels is 'delusional'

Model of LNG tanker is seen in front of the EU flag in this illustration taken on May 19, 2022.
PHOTO: Reuters file

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BRUSSELS — Rich countries have made a dangerous dash for fossil fuels in response to the Ukraine war, the UN secretary-general said on Tuesday (June 14), warning that new investments being made in coal, oil and gas were "delusional" given their impact on climate change.

"The energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine has seen a perilous doubling down on fossil fuels by the major economies," Antonio Guterres said in a video address to the Austrian World Summit, a climate conference.

Since Russia's February invasion of Ukraine, some countries have turned to buying more non-Russian fossil fuels or investing in new oil and gas fields to shore up their energy supplies.

For example, Germany and the Netherlands announced plans this month to develop a new North Sea gas field, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz also has said Germany wants to pursue gas projects with Senegal.

State-owned QatarEnergy's North Field East is expanding as part of the world's largest liquefied natural gas project, and Britain is financing an LNG project in Mozambique.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a joint news conference with Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (not seen) in Stockholm, Sweden, on June 1, 2022.
PHOTO: Reuters

Guterres said "new funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional" and would worsen the global problems of pollution and climate change.

Scientists say global carbon dioxide emissions need to be cut roughly in half by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050 in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The countries making new fossil fuel investments each have targets for cutting CO2 emissions by 2030. Germany has said diversifying its near-term gas supplies would not derail its climate plans to eventually slash fossil fuel use, and hit a newly ambitious target for renewable energy made since the Russian invasion began.

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The International Energy Agency has called for an end to new oil, gas and coal projects in order to meet global climate goals, and says renewable energy investments must triple by 2030. Guterres called on financial actors to fund renewables.

"Had we invested massively in renewable energy in the past, we should not be so dramatically at the mercy of the instability of fossil fuel markets now," Guterres said, noting that soaring oil and gas prices have hiked energy bills around the world.