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For 2023, U.N. chief amplifies warnings on Ukraine, climate

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the World Economic Forum (WEF), in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2023. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday told fossil fuel producers they “should not be in business” unless they are credibly aiming for net-zero emissions and warned that the world is walking into a “wider war” over Ukraine.

In a speech to the 193-member U.N. General Assembly presenting his 2023 priorities, Guterres also called for “a new Bretton Woods moment” – referring to the 1941 conference that led to the creation of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Guterres, who took office at the United Nations on Jan. 1, 2017 and is now in his second and final five-year term, has long been pushing for changes to favor developing nations in the global financial institutions and vocal about combating climate change.

“I have a special message for fossil fuel producers and their enablers scrambling to expand production and raking in monster profits: If you cannot set a credible course for net-zero, with 2025 and 2030 targets covering all your operations, you should not be in business,” said Guterres.

“Your core product is our core problem,” he said. “We need a renewables revolution, not a self-destructive fossil fuel resurgence.”

Countries are under pressure to cut emissions in half by 2030 and down to net-zero by 2050, the only path to holding global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius. Guterres is convening a “no-nonsense” climate ambition summit in September.

On the global financial system, Guterres called for a new commitment to raise the “dramatic needs” and voices of developing countries. He also said a new debt architecture is needed that encompasses debt relief and restructuring to vulnerable countries, including middle-income ones in need.

Guterres addressed the General Assembly just weeks before the first anniversary on Feb. 24 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which he said was “inflicting untold suffering on the Ukrainian people, with profound global implications.”

“The prospects for peace keep diminishing. The chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing,” Guterres said. “I fear the world is not sleepwalking into a wider war. I fear it is doing so with its eyes wide open.”

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