UN chief slams ‘greed’ and ‘outrageous profits’ of big oil and gas companies

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres sharply denounced the “greed” of big oil and gas companies that are making “outrageous” profits on the backs of some of the world’s poorest people. 

Guterres said the crisis was caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and called on national governments to tax the companies’ huge profits. 

“The truth is that we are seeing these excessive, outrageous profits from the oil and gas industries at a time when we are all losing money,” Antonio Guterres told a press conference to mark the release of the third UN report on the global consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It is immoral that oil and gas companies are making record profits from this energy crisis, on the backs of the poorest people and communities, at massive cost to the climate.

So “I call on all governments to tax these excessive profits, and to use these funds to support the most vulnerable in these difficult times”, he added, betting that such a move would undoubtedly be “popular”.

He estimated that in the first quarter of 2022, the oil and gas majors would make around $100 billion in profits. With oil and gas prices rising, BP, ExxonMobile, Chevron, Shell and TotalEnergies also announced huge profits in the second quarter.

“This ridiculous greed is punishing the poorest and most vulnerable, while destroying our only common home, the planet,” Guterres said.

Since the previous assessment in June, “the impacts of the purchasing power crisis are being felt more deeply and widely across the world,” the report says.

It points out that by the end of 2022, 345 million people in 82 countries could be food insecure, an increase of 47 million as a result of the war.

“Many developing countries are drowning in debt, lack access to finance, are struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, and could be on the precipice,” warned Guterres, noting “warning signs of a wave of economic, social and political upheaval that could spare no country.”

In this context, the report, which focuses on the “major energy crisis”, calls on governments to identify the most vulnerable populations and provide them with access to “affordable” energy.

To address this crisis without jeopardising commitments to limit global warming, the latest United Nations report calls on governments to take measures to reduce energy demand – including reducing heating and air conditioning, reducing air travel, renovate buildings, and to accelerate the development of renewable energy.