‘Avoid employers who are killing the planet’: UN Secretary-General issues graduation ceremony plea

“Don’t work for climate-wreckers,” UN Secretary-General, António Guterres has warned students in a speech marking the graduation of the Class of 2022.

Addressing the Seton Hall University Commencement at the Prudential Center, in Newark, New Jersey, Guterres told students that as graduates they now “hold the cards” as multinational companies and big financial institutions seek their talent.

With “plenty of opportunities to choose from” young people should be mindful of the climate policies of the firms they now choose to work for, Guterres said, adding that they “must be the generation that succeeds in addressing the planetary emergency of climate change” .

In a wide-ranging speech to mark the graduation ceremony, Guterres reserved some of his strongest words for those financial institutions and oil and gas giants that continued to invest in and exploit new fossil fuels projects.

“Despite mountains of evidence of looming climate catastrophe, we still see mountains of funding for coal and fossil fuels that are killing our planet,” he said. “That money continues to flow from some of the biggest names in finance, hedge funds and private equity. But we know investing in fossil fuels is a dead end – economically and environmentally. No amount of greenwashing or spin can change that.”

“Accountability is coming for those who liquidate our future,” he added.

In recent months Guterres has stepped up calls for governments and businesses to end new fossil fuel development as soon as possible and accelerate the phase out of coal power.

And just last week he set out five actions governments and businesses should now take to accelerate the shift to renewable energy.

These included treating renewable energy technologies and battery storage as essential and freely-available global public goods, as well as securing, scaling up, and diversifying the supply of critical components and raw materials for renewable energy technologies. Other actions included encouraging governments to build frameworks and reform bureaucracies to level the playing field for renewables, while shifting subsides away from fossil fuels.

Finally, Guterres said that private and public investments in renewable energy must triple to at least $4tr dollars a year.

“For solar and wind power, upfront payments account for 80 per cent of lifetime costs,” he said. “That means big investments now will reap big rewards for years to come.”

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