Climate Action

UN secretary-general urges climate action in coronavirus recovery

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, had a message for the world: We face not one, but two global threats. 

“We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption,” said Guterres in a video message

The message, however, wasn’t that of hopelessness — the world has a chance to come together and fight both crises.

“We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future,” he said. 

Restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus have drastically changed our lives and economies, creating a unique opportunity for us to invest in more sustainable societies. 

The secretary-general offered some “climate-related actions to shape the recovery and work ahead.” 

Guterres suggested directing coronavirus relief money into a greener economy, with jobs in renewable energy. Since taxpayer money helps businesses stay afloat in the economic downturn, the money should go toward more resilient and eco-conscious businesses. 

“Public funds should be used to invest in the future, not the past,” said Guterres. 

In the U.S., experts predict that the recent stimulus bills will only be temporary fixes, and we’ll need more policy changes by September to help us climb out of this recession. But as Guterres explains, since we’re already in the recession, we must take this opportunity to make our economy and energy systems more sustainable, reduce emissions and slow global warming. 

Climate change will have economic consequences. We can expect billions of dollars in natural disaster damages, healthcare for pollution-related illnesses and unstable access to affordable food. But a lot of that cost can be prevented.

If we shift to renewable energy now, we can mitigate climate change and protect jobs in the energy industry when the oil runs out. Renewable energy is even cheaper once the infrastructure is in place.

To kick off a greener economy, Guterres recommends ending fossil fuel subsidies and taxing polluters to hold them accountable for their damage. He also recommends that climate risks be incorporated into economic systems like the stock market.

Above all else, the U.N. asks us to put aside our national affiliations and come together as people of Earth. 

“Greenhouse gases, just like viruses, do not respect national boundaries,” said Guterres. “On this Earth Day, please join me in demanding a healthy and resilient future for people and planet alike.”

As the U.N. encourages us to invest in a healthy, resilient and sustainable economy, we can individually speed up the process by voting for leaders who prioritize the planet. Learn more at Earth Day Network’s Vote Earth campaign.

Photo credit for image at top: UN Photo/OCHA/Mark Garten