Speaking on the third day of the World Economic Forum 2023 in Davos, Guterres accused fossil fuel companies of following a business model that is ‘inconsistent with human survival’ and called for world leaders to collaborate on efforts to keep the 1.5C limit of global warming alive. 

In a speech centred around the dangers of greenwashing and unsustainable business models, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged leaders at the World Economic Forum 2023 to develop “credible” and “transparent” plans to accelerate the green transition and achieve net zero by the end of the year.

Despite claiming to be working towards carbon neutrality, many companies’ net zero commitments are “dubious” and “murky”. This “leaves the door wide open to greenwashing” and can “mislead consumers, investors and regulators with false narratives,” Guterres told Davos delegates on Wednesday.

Greenwashing is when a company or organisation spends more time and money on marketing itself as being sustainable than minimising its environmental impact. It is deceitful advertising to gain favour with consumers who support businesses that care about bettering the planet. 

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Guterres also launched a strong attack on the worlds leading fossil fuel companies, accusing them of following a “business model that is inconsistent with human survival” and urging them to step up progress in the fight to contain global average temperature rise to 1.5C. 

Some 2,500 global leaders and delegates from several sectors, including major energy firms such as BP, Chevron, and Saudi Aramco, have gathered in Davos on Monday to discuss the bold collective action needed to address urgent global challenges arising from an increasingly fraught geopolitical landscape. 

In his speech, the UN chief also referred to a report released by the UN last October, which suggested the world is already on track to exceed the 2C temperature rise mark by 2030. Another study by the UN weather agency revealed that the atmospheric concentration of all three greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – hit new record levels in 2021. The year-on-year jump in methane emissions, the potent, heat-trapping gas considered the second-largest contributor to global warming, was the highest since records began in 1983. 

“We are flirting with climate disaster,” said Guterres. “The consequences […] would be devastating” and for many, a rise above 2C would even mean “a death sentence.” 

The World Economic Forum 2023 begins as a massive heatwave, which scientists blame on anthropogenic climate change, is bringing abnormally high temperatures to Europe. This year’s unprecedented snow shortage has already forced popular ski resorts in Switzerland and elsewhere to shut down. It is the first time that the Swiss town and its mountainsides are not covered in snow, an event that climate advocates hope serves as a “reality check” for the world’s elite. 

Featured image by World Economic Forum

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