UN chief: don't 'throw away' stimulus money on fossil fuels

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FILE -- In this Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018 file photo clouds of smoke are pictured over Europe's largest lignite power plant in Belchatow, central Poland. Government stimulus programs to pull the world out of the coronavirus pandemic offer a tremendous opportunity to build a clean-energy economy, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday, calling on governments not to invest in the past." Speaking video link from Los Angeles to the Austrian World Summit in Vienna, Schwarzenegger said that forward-looking decisions are needed now as trillions are being poured into rebuilding economies around the globe.A group of Greenpeace environment activists have climbed its 180-meter smokestack to spur participants in next week's global climate summit in Poland into taking decisions on limiting the use of coal.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)

VIENNA – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Thursday on governments not to “throw away” economic stimulus funds by supporting fossil fuel industries that contribute to global warming.

Speaking at a virtual conference on climate change, Guterres noted that countries have “a choice of two paths” as they mobilize trillions of dollars of taxpayers' money for economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We can either throw away money on the fossil fuels of the past. That is the road to more pollution,” he said. “Or we can invest in the technologies of the future, renewable energy, nature-based solutions, sustainable transport and green technologies.”

“Only one of these paths is rational,” he said.

The U.N. chief noted that large investors are already pulling their money out of heavily polluting industries, especially coal.

“Without taxpayer subsidies they are bankrupt enterprises,” he said, claiming that building new renewable energy plants is already cheaper than continuing to operate almost two-fifths of the world’s existing coal-fired plants.

Several countries, including coal-reliant Germany, have recently agreed to phase out the use of coal for electricity because of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide produced from burning it.

In the United States, numerous coal-fired power plants have been shut down in recent years since 2010 and none of the nation's energy companies are building a new one, despite U.S. President Donald Trump's stated support for the coal industry.