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UN secretary general calls for windfall tax on fossil fuel companies: 'Polluters must pay'

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres is urging the world's developed countries to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies and redirect the money to "countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices."

Speaking on Tuesday to the UN General Assembly, Guterres said the world is "in big trouble," and a "winter of global discontent is on the horizon, a cost-of-living crisis is raging, trust is crumbling, inequalities are exploding, and our planet is burning. We have a duty to act and yet we are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction. The international community is not ready or willing to tackle the big dramatic challenges of our age."

Specifically focusing on oil and gas firms, Guterres said "polluters must pay" for their actions, and it is "high time to put fossil fuel producers, investors, and enablers on notice." Companies like Exxon and Chevron recently announced record profits, and activists have demanded they pay taxes on their windfalls, with the revenue going to developing countries suffering because of climate change.

Guterres just visited Pakistan, where months of heavy rains caused catastrophic damage, wiping out crops, destroying homes and infrastructure, and leaving at least 1,400 people dead. Pakistan is responsible for not even 1 percent of global carbon emissions, but is experiencing devastation linked to climate change — first from extreme heat in the beginning of the year, and then the rains. "The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time," Guterres said. "It must be the first priority of every government and multilateral organization. And yet climate action is being put on the back burner, despite overwhelming public support around the world."