UNITED NATIONS, July 9 (Xinhua) -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday urged all leaders to choose the "clean energy route" for three vital reasons, namely health, science and economics.
The UN chief made the appeal in a video message to the virtual International Energy Agency Clean Energy Transition Summit, and called on the international community to invest in renewable energy, "which is reliable, clean and economically smart."
For the health reason, the secretary-general said that worldwide, outdoor air pollution is causing nearly 9 million early deaths every year and shortening human lifespans by an average of three years.
"This is a bigger toll on life expectancy than tobacco smoking," he said.
Scientifically speaking, Guterres said that "all around the world, every month, there is new evidence of the increasing toll of climate disruption."
"We must limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avert more and worse disasters. This means net-zero emissions by 2050, and 45 percent cuts by 2030 from 2010 levels," he said. "This is still achievable."
Economics, Guterres said, makes his third rationale for the clean energy pathway.
"Per kilowatt hour, solar energy is now cheaper than coal in most countries. If we had any doubt about the direction the wind is blowing, the real economy is showing us. The business case for renewable energy is now better than coal in virtually every market," the secretary-general said.
"Fossil fuels are increasingly risky business with fewer takers," he noted, adding that he is encouraged that some COVID-19 response and recovery plans put the transition from fossil fuels at their core.
Guterres called on the global community "to stop wasting money on fossil fuel subsidies and place a price on carbon."
"We need to consider climate risk in our decision making. Every financial decision must take account of environmental and social impacts," he said.
"This is more important than ever in the coming months as companies, investors and countries make big financial decisions about the future," Guterres said.
"Renewable energy is the only energy source expected to grow in 2020," he said. "Solar auctions have seen popularity amidst the height of the pandemic."
Noting that renewables offer three times more jobs than the fossil fuel industry, the UN chief called for an end to all external financing of coal in the developing world.
"Coal has no place in COVID-19 recovery plans," he said.
"Let us embrace the vast opportunity of a clean energy future. This is in everyone's interest," he concluded.
Organizers say Thursday's summit is the year's largest global gathering on energy and climate as the countries of the ministers in attendance represent almost 80 percent of global energy consumption and global carbon emissions. Enditem