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UN chief asks G20, including India, to invest in clean transition as they recover from COVID-19

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United Nations:  UN chief Antonio Guterres on Friday renewed his call on India and other G20 countries to invest in a clean and sustainable transition as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, expressing deep concern over the continued support for polluting fossil fuels by nations across the world.

UN Secretary-General Guterres, virtually delivering the 19th Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), said that clean energy and closing the energy access gap are good business.

“They are the ticket to growth and prosperity. Yet, here in India, subsidies for fossil fuels are still some seven times more than subsidies for clean energy,” he said.

Coal subsidies in 2019-20 amounted to USD 2.06 billion, with overall subsidies to fossil fuels at USD 11 billion, he said.

Guterres praised India for raising the proportion of renewable energy in its total consumption to 24 per cent from 17 per cent despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that coal-fired power use has declined by 10 per cent to 66 per cent from 76 per cent.

The UN chief said that investments in renewable energy generate triple the number of jobs created by investments in fossil fuels.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to push many people back into poverty, such job creation is an opportunity that can’t be missed,” Guterres said.

Apart from issues of job creation and concerns about pollution and climate change, coal power plants are likely to become “stranded assets,” he said.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar presided over the event and delivered the Presidential Address.

The UN chief described as “deeply troubling” the continued support for fossil fuels in so many places around the world.

“I have asked all G20 countries, including India, to invest in a clean, green transition as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. This means ending fossil fuel subsidies, placing a price on carbon pollution and committing to no new coal after 2020,” Guterres said.

The Secretary-General elaborated that in India, 50 per cent of coal will be uncompetitive in 2022, reaching 85 per cent by 2025.

“This is why the world’s largest investors are increasingly abandoning coal. They see the writing on the wall. It spells stranded assets and makes no commercial sense. The coal business is going up in smoke,” he said.

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