UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Wednesday January 18, 2023. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
The United Nations is targeting oil tankers. The UN Secretary-General on Wednesday January 18 called for prosecution of the sector’s major groups for decades of withholding information about global warming and the causal link to fossil fuels.
“Some fossil fuel producers in the 1970s were well aware that their flagship product was going to burn up the planet,” said Antonio Guterres during a speech at the Davos Forum. “However, like the tobacco industry, they have ignored their own science,” he continued during his speech, adding that some oil giants had “spread the big lie”.
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Beginning in the late 1970s, oil giant ExxonMobil had its own scientists make predictions about global warming with remarkable accuracy: what began to take shape happened several decades later, a study published Friday in the prestigious Science journal confirmed. However, the company has publicly doubted the state of scientific knowledge in this area for years, it is also reminded.
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Following publication in Science, a company spokesman said that “this question has come up a number of times over the past few years,” adding, “Each time, our answer is the same: Those who address what ‘Exxon knew’ are wrong in their conclusions . »
According to Antonio Guterres, “those responsible must be prosecuted,” as the tobacco companies have done. In 1998, the tobacco giants agreed to pay $206 billion (€176 billion at the time) to 46 American states over 25 years to cover the cost of caring for ex-smokers.
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For a number of years, ExxonMobil has been accused of leading a dual discourse on climate change caused by the immense amounts of greenhouse gases that humanity releases into the atmosphere from, among other things, burning coal or oil for energy. “We must end the lies of the oil, gas and coal giants and take collective action to phase them out,” the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty initiative said in a statement welcoming the UN Secretary-General’s speech.
According to this organization, which advocates tough frameworks for fossil fuel producers, governments’ slow progress in fighting the oil giants’ climate impact is due to “the influence of fossil industry lobbyists.”
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“Flirting with the climate catastrophe”
The question of the impact of the oil industry on the planet is all the more urgent today as “every week brings its share of terrible stories,” worried the UN Secretary-General, who speaks of “flirting with the climate catastrophe”. On January 12, the World Meteorological Organization confirmed that the past eight years have been the hottest on record.
“The oil must stay in the ground,” demanded Ecuadorian Amazon activist Helena Gualinga, 20, in an interview with Agence France-Presse on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting. Along with the Swede Greta Thunberg and other young activists, she is one of the new faces of the mobilization against climate change.
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The direction the oil industry is taking is worrying, according to Antonio Guterres: “Today, fossil fuel producers and their supporters continue to fight to increase production, knowing full well that their economic model is incompatible with the survival of mankind.” is science fiction,” he pounded.
The UN Secretary-General has slammed the “dubious” or “opaque” climate commitments of many companies towards the zero-carbon target: It “misleads consumers, investors and regulators with false narratives and opens the door to “greenwashing”. . “Our climate commitments require the full commitment of the private sector,” he stressed, saying he believed that “the fight for 1.5 degrees [de hausse globale des températures] will be won or lost in this decade.
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