United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called on governments to make sure coronavirus bailouts, especially those in the transport sector, are compatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The economic slump caused by the pandemic has prompted governments to shell out billions in state aid to prop up businesses most affected by the outbreak. In Europe, that has ranged from the travel and tourism industries to retail and cultural sectors.
Guterres told an International Energy Agency (IEA) summit last week (9 July) that he was “encouraged that some COVID response and recovery plans put the transition from fossil fuels at their core”, citing efforts by South Korea and the EU as examples.
However, he added that “many have still not got the message” as some countries choose to “prop up oil and gas companies that were already struggling financially. Others have chosen to jumpstart coal-fired power plants that don’t make financial or environmental sense.”
Guterres reminded the summit that the Paris Agreement’s signatories have committed themselves to limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and that the world must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 to stay under the benchmark.
“Every financial decision must take account of environmental and social impacts,” he added. On Sunday (12 July), EU legislation aimed at doing just that came into force, as the bloc’s so-called taxonomy rules kicked in.
As part of its common position for the UN General Assembly in September, the European Council stated on Monday (13 July) that “recovery efforts have to be consistent with the low emissions transition agenda”.
The list of priorities for the meeting also insists that virus policies “should not exacerbate existing interrelated climate and environment emergencies” and that “a new reality after COVID-19” needs new, more sustainable clean energy efforts.