UN chief calls for energy windfall taxes to help climate victims

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges rich countries to help countries harmed by the climate crisis and those struggling with rising energy prices.

antonio guterres addresses the UN general assembly
Guterres pushed developed countries to tax fossil fuel windfall profits [Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters]

UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged rich countries to tax windfall profits of fossil fuel companies and use that money to help countries harmed by the climate crisis and people who are struggling with rising food and energy prices.

Addressing world leaders at the 193-member United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, the secretary-general stepped up his attacks on oil and gas companies, which have seen their profits soar this year amid rising energy prices.

“The fossil fuel industry is feasting on hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfall profits while household budgets shrink and our planet burns,” he said.

“Polluters must pay,” he added.

Guterres pushed developed countries to tax the fossil fuel windfall profits and suggested how the money should be spent.

“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,” he told the annual gathering of world leaders in New York.

Britain has passed a 25 percent windfall tax on oil and gas producers in the North Sea, while the European Union plans to raise more than 140 billion euros ($139bn) to shield consumers from soaring energy prices by taxing windfall profits from oil companies and electric generators.

Democratic lawmakers in the United States have discussed a similar idea, though it faces long odds in a divided US Congress.

While these plans focus on redirecting windfall profits to domestic consumers, the UN secretary-general advocated for a tax that would be directed to the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries, which have been embracing the idea.

He also said multilateral development banks “must step up and deliver” and that helping poor countries adapt to worsening climate shocks “must make up half of all climate finance.”

Guterres added: “Major economies are their shareholders and must make it happen.”

With global temperatures rising and a part of Pakistan the size of the United Kingdom recently under water, Guterres lashed out at fossil fuel companies and the “suicidal war against nature”.

“It must be the first priority of every government and multilateral organisation. And yet climate action is being put on the back burner despite overwhelming support across the world. We have a rendezvous with climate disaster,” he said.

“The hotter summers of today may be the cooler summers of tomorrow,” he warned.

Reporting from the UN, Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays, said Guterres’s address to the assembly was particularly grim.

“We’ve heard grim speeches by the secretary-general before; in fact, I’ve listened to him since he [became] secretary-general [in 2017] and it’s been getting tougher and tougher – his speeches, the words he has been using about the situation around the world,” Bays said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies