UN urges higher tax for Aust fuel giants

·2-min read

The head of the United Nations has called for Australia and other major economies to tax the super profits of fossil fuel companies to help people make ends meet and be protected from climate change.

"I am calling on all developed economies to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies," Secretary-General's Antonio Guterres told a high-level meeting in New York.

"Those funds should be re-directed in two ways: to countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis, and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices."

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked an energy shock as oil and gas prices rise, forcing up the price of food and other essentials - for households, farmers, manufacturers and industry.

As world leaders and Australian ministers gather for the annual week of talks, Mr Guterres warned "we are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction" despite needing to act on many fronts.

"Our world is addicted to fossil fuels. It's time for an intervention," he said.

"We need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account."

He acknowledged oil, gas and coal cannot be shut down overnight.

"But it is high time to put fossil fuel producers, investors and enablers on notice," he said.

That includes the banks, private equity firms, asset managers and other financial institutions in Australia and elsewhere that "continue to invest and underwrite carbon pollution".

Foreign Minister Penny Wong is leading Australia's delegation to the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen is also in the United States to participate in climate week at the United Nations and represent Australia at clean energy talks later this week in Pittsburgh.

"To be frank, it's been difficult for Australia to play a constructive role, let alone a leadership role in international climate discussions over the past decade", Mr Bowen said in a speech to business leaders in New York.

"That period is over. Australia is back," he said.

With China the dominant supplier of critical minerals, Mr Bowen said he wanted Australia to be a trusted and reliable partner for vital ingredients used in making solar panels and batteries for cleaner energy.

"Not just of raw minerals but of manufactured compounds and of exported renewable energy itself," he said.

Mr Bowen said geopolitical tension made progress on climate change "even harder" but it was a reminder of the need to act more quickly.

The UN chief was concerned the G20 group of nations that includes Australia emits 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions but the poorest and most vulnerable who contributed least to the crisis were hardest hit.

"Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry is feasting on hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfall profits while household budgets shrink and our planet burns," Mr Guterres said.

"Polluters must pay."