United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres denounced Wednesday during his appearance before the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, that many countries were on the brink of recession, amid growing inflation in economies still to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Guterres also called on the United States and China to stop fueling division worldwide.
In Guterres' terms, the feud between these two powers, which he dubbed the Great Divide, could cost the global economy US$ 1.4 trillion dollars.
We risk a disconnect of the world's two largest economies, a rift of tectonic dimensions that could create two conflicting trade regulations, two dominant currencies, two internet networks, and two conflicting artificial intelligence strategies, Guterres told the planet's economic and political leaders.
There are many areas where China-U.S. ties diverge, particularly on human rights and regional security issues, but it is possible and essential that they engage together on climate action, trade, and technology, to avoid such a disconnect and even the possibility of future confrontation, the Portuguese diplomat went on.
Guterres also called on China, the US, and the other G20 countries to unite around a climate pact that includes additional efforts not to exceed the limit of 1.5 degrees of increase in the planet's average temperature. The battle for the Paris Agreement goals can be won or lost in this decade, and for the moment we are losing it, Guterres went on. He recalled that, at current rates, this century will exceed 2.8 degrees of increase, with devastating consequences.
Parts of our planet will become uninhabitable, and, for many, this will be a death sentence, Guterres insisted. He also argued that the world's challenges are interconnected, piling up like a multiple car crash, and it would be hard enough to find solutions to them in better times, more so now that the world is far from united and instead experiences enormous levels of geopolitical division and great mistrust.
He underlined the need for reforms of a global financial system that systematically denies debt relief and support financing to vulnerable countries and called on private entrepreneurs to create changes in their models and practices toward Sustainable Development Goals, including the expansion of women's economic opportunities, equality in vaccine distribution and global food security.
Guterres also claimed that some fossil energy producers were fully aware in the 1970s that their flagship products were detrimental to the planet but went ahead with their businesses all the same. He made those remarks in Davos following the release of a study on what US giant ExxonMobil knew four decades ago.
Some fossil energy producers were fully aware in the 1970s that their flagship product was going to burn the planet. But, like the tobacco industry, they paid little heed to their own science. Some oil giants sold the big lie, Guterres said while likening that scenario to the one faced by tobacco companies in the United States that had to pay billions of US dollars in legal settlements to treat smokers. As with the tobacco industry, they tiptoed around their own scientific findings, maintained a big lie, and now those responsible are being held accountable, just as tobacco once was, he said.
In the 1980s, ExxonMobil had highly accurate forecasts of global warming made by its own scientists that actually came true decades later. Today, fossil fuel producers and those who support them continue to fight to increase production, knowing that their economic model is incompatible with the survival of humanity, Guterres said in Davos.
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