Antonio Guterres blasts governments and business leaders for ‘lying’ about their efforts to cut carbon emissions

The secretary general of the United Nations (UN) has called the optimism which followed last year’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow “naive” and accused business leaders of lying about their efforts to tackle emissions.

Antonio Guterres described a new UN report on greenhouse gas emissions a “file of shame” that exposed a “litany of broken climate promises” from government and corporations.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the world will warm by 3.2 degrees this century, more than double the 1.5 degree limit agreed at the 2015 Paris climate summit.

The 1.5 degree limit is considered the maximum level of warming that can be sustained this century without “catastrophic” climate consequences, which Guterres said would include “unprecedented heatwaves, terrifying storms, and widespread water shortages”.

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Antonio Guterres said governments and business leaders are ‘lying’ about their efforts to tackle carbon emissions

To reach the target, global emissions would have to be cut by 45% by the end of this decade, but the report warns that current climate pledges would result in a 14% increase in emissions by 2030.

Guterres said the world was on a “fast-track to climate disaster”, adding that the report catalogues the “empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unliveable world”.

He said: “We left COP26 in Glasgow with a naive optimism based on new promises and commitments but the main problem, the enormous growing emissions gap, was all but ignored.

“Some governments and business leaders are saying one thing but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic.”

Describing new investments in fossil fuels as “moral and economic madness”, he said that governments and corporations are “not just turning a blind eye, they are adding fuel to the flames. 

“They are choking our planet based on their vested interests and historic investment in fossil fuels when cheaper renewable solutions provide green jobs, energy security and greater price stability.”

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The publication of the report comes amid a global surge in energy prices, worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has put intense pressure on governments to find alternative energy supplies.

The UK government is set to publish its energy security strategy on Thursday. The document will outline how the UK will ensure its independence from foreign fuel imports from Russia.

Boris Johnson is expected to commit to plans to build seven new nuclear power stations over the next three decades, trebling the UK’s nuclear capacity to 24GW.

The prime minister is also expected to announce plans to build two large nuclear plants by 2030. The government has previously said it will green light one major nuclear scheme by the end of the current parliament in 2024.

The energy strategy is also set to include ambitious targets to more than double energy output from onshore wind turbines from 14GW to 30GW by 2030 and to achieve 45GW from offshore wind by 2035.