California Gov. Gavin Newsom called out fossil fuel companies for their alleged “deceit and denial,” during a speech Sept. 20 at the United Nations (UN) Climate Ambition Summit in New York.
Though Mr. Newsom was given the floor to speak during the one-day event, the United States and China—along with other alleged “major polluters”—were not allowed due to claims from U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres who said, earlier this month in a press release, the summit had “no room for back-sliders, greenwashers, blame-shifters, or repackaging of announcements from previous years.”
“For decades and decades, the oil industry has been playing each and every one of us in this room for fools. They have been buying off politicians,” Mr. Newsom said in his four-minute speech. “They’ve been denying and delaying science and fundamental information that they were privy to that they didn’t share or they manipulated. Their deceit and denial, going back decades, have created the conditions that persist here today.”
Mr. Newsom also shared details of California’s plan to phase out fossil fuels and become “carbon neutral” by 2045, including filing a lawsuit against some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell, BP, Chevron, and others, claiming they deceived the public for decades about the risks of fossil fuels.
“It’s not complicated. It’s the burning of oil. It’s the burning of gas. It’s the burning of coal. And we need to call that out,” Mr. Newsom said during the speech.
He said the world’s climate crisis was due to fossil fuels and the oil industry, which he said has “choked up” his state with rising temperatures and increasing wildfires.
He additionally credited California as being on the “cutting edge” of the country’s green policy initiatives, citing former Republican leaders like President Ronald Reagan through his creation of the California Air Resources Board and his enactment of the first regulations of tailpipe emissions in the nation in the 1980s.
Mr. Newsom also pointed to President Richard Nixon’s Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, comparing it with his current plan for California to achieve zero emissions by 2045.
“We continue to lead as it relates to efforts to completely transition to 100 percent, zero-emission vehicles,” Mr. Newsom said. “We will continue to advance [such] ambitious goals, and advance our low carbon green growth future.”
The short speech led to thunderous applause from member states around the room, many of whom echoed similar sentiments in their own speeches including Chilean President Gabriel Boric and the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, who both stated that the fossil fuel industry continues to fuel global warming.
The summit was held, in part, to amplify voices of countries taking more accelerated action to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, and included Canada, Brazil, South Africa, and others, though Mr. Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, said the U.S. and other leading countries have failed to meet such standards.
According to a recent statement from Mr. Guterres, the criteria for a country’s leader to be selected to speak include proposals to update their respective country's pre-2030 climate plan; updated targets to achieve net-zero emissions that commit to no new oil, gas, or coal; and plans to phase out fossil fuels, of which he said the United States, China, and the United Arab Emirates failed to meet.