United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres began his World Environment Day address by highlighting data from the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service that reports May 2024 as the hottest May in recorded history. “We are living in unprecedented times,” says Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus, BBC News reported.

“This marks 12 straight months of the hottest months ever,” Guterres said in his speech at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. “For the past year, every turn of the calendar has turned up the heat. Our planet is trying to tell us something. But we don’t seem to be listening.”

Fossil fuel industry

In his remarks, Guterres condemned the fossil fuel industry for its role in climate change, an industry that he said has “shown relentless zeal for obstructing progress — over decades.”

“Climate change is the mother of all stealth taxes paid by everyday people and vulnerable countries and communities,” he said. “Meanwhile, the godfathers of climate chaos — the fossil fuel industry — rake in record profits and feast off trillions in taxpayer-funded subsidies.”

Guterres said world leaders should ban advertising from fossil fuel companies and encouraged media and technology companies to refuse fossil fuel ads. Guterres likened the banning of advertising for tobacco products due to its harmful health effects to the need to ban fossil fuel ads.

In response to Guterres’ address, fossil fuel industry representatives stated their commitment to reducing the industry’s carbon emissions.

“Our industry is focused on continuing to produce affordable, reliable energy while tackling the climate challenge, and any allegations to the contrary are false,” said Megan Bloomgren, Senior Vice President of Communications at the American Petroleum Foundation, BBC News reported.


While some organizations, including the UK Advertising Standards Authority and European Union, have taken action to tackle “greenwashing” ads, or misleading claims regarding the environment, Guterres’ call for a global ban on fossil fuel industry ads has no legal standing and the U.N. has no legal framework to enforce the ban, per BBC.

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Looking ahead: Guterres referenced a World Meteorological Organization report that states “there is an 80% chance the global annual average temperature will exceed the 1.5 degree limit in at least one of the next five years.”

Guterres outlined steps he thinks should be taken over the next 18 months in order to “secure the safest possible future for people and planet”:

  • To drastically reduce emissions, with huge emitters leading the charge.
  • To protect nature and populations throughout the world from climate extremes.
  • To increase climate finance.
  • To crack down on the fossil fuel industry.

“Now is the time to mobilize, now is the time to act, now is the time to deliver,” Guterres concluded. “This is our moment of truth.”

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