As hundreds of thousands of people die around the planet as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.N. on Wednesday sought to assert the primacy of climate action in any recovery plans.
A United Nations chief economist pushed the focus on climate as he urged the world to pursue more ambitious climate action and investment in renewable energy at the expense of coal.
Elliott Harris is helping lead the U.N.’s development of policy advice for nations grappling with the pandemic.
He appeared on a digital seminar with the Australia Institute where he laid out guidelines for the Australian government and how it should shape its recovery from the pandemic, as SBS News reports.
He said developed nations such as Australia must be willing to make difficult decisions and prioritise a “green recovery.”
“What we’ve seen in this COVID crisis is that governments are indeed capable of really ambitious, rather unorthodox and extremely important and even massive interventions,” he told the webinar.
“I can think of no stakes that are higher than the climate crisis that we are living in right now.”
"We will not be able to sustain life on this planet if we do not get a grip of climate change and time is running out, we have to be able to move toward a low-carbon structure & everything that we do from now, has to have that in mind" -Elliott Harris, UN chief economist #auspol pic.twitter.com/XfP2NnrOjO
— Australia Institute (@TheAusInstitute) August 12, 2020
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has previously stressed coal should play no part in any country’s post-coronavirus stimulus plan, as Breitbart News reported, singling out Australia for special treatment given its reliance on coal exports to the world.
However Australia’s conservative coalition government said it will put jobs and the economy ahead of any U.N. demands for it to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann replied.
Australia is considered one of the world’s largest exporters of fossil fuels through coal and liquified natural gas projects, with the local coal industry employing upwards of 50,000 workers alone.
In financial year 2019, the export value of coal from Australia was approximately $69.6 billion. The value of coal exports has almost doubled over the past decade, with coal being one of the leading export commodities in the country.