STOCKHOLM (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday warned that the Ukraine war is diverting attention away from climate change, while at the same time showcasing the world’s “suicidal” dependence on fossil fuels.
Speaking ahead of an environmental conference in Stockholm, Guterres said the scale of the conflict has “inevitably” shifted the focus from other issues, including efforts to halt the global temperature rise.
“The sense of urgency in the debate on climate has of course suffered with the war in Ukraine,” Guterres told reporters at the Swedish prime minister’s official residence. “But I think this war has demonstrated one thing: How fragile is the world in its dependence on fossil fuels.”
He pointed to decisions by the European Union this week to stop most imports of Russian oil as part of sanctions imposed after the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. The conflict has underscored how dependent many European countries are on Russian oil and gas.
“So it’s time to learn the lesson,” Guterres said. “If we do not want again to be in the same situation we are today we need to make a clear bet: massive investment in renewable energy and clear understanding that the dependence on fossil fuels is a suicidal one.”
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson noted that before the Ukraine war the world was grappling with other crises including the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to be able to handle all these crises at the same time,” she said. “When we come together we can achieve fantastic things together.”
Guterres was in Stockholm to attend a two-day conference starting Thursday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in the same city in 1972. That event was the starting point for U.N. efforts to promote global environmental action and led to the creation of the U.N. Environmental Program.