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Antonio Guterres speaks at a press conference

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres speaks at a press conference in New York City on March 10, 2021. (Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

UN Chief to New College Grads: To Help Save the Planet, 'Don't Work for Climate Wreckers'

"Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable future," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a commencement address to Seton Hall University graduates.

Jake Johnson

The head of the United Nations on Tuesday implored a new class of Seton Hall University graduates—and college graduates the world over—not to spend their professional lives working for corporate "climate wreckers" whose business models are dependent on the continued degradation and warming of the planet.

"As graduates, you hold the cards," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a commencement address at the New Jersey university. "Your talent is in demand from multinational companies and big financial institutions. But you will have plenty of opportunities to choose from thanks to the excellence of your graduation.

"So," he added, "my message to you is simple: Don't work for climate wreckers. Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable future."

Watch the full speech:

The fossil fuel industry—the corporate sector most responsible for the climate crisis—has faced a so-called "talent crunch" in recent years as many younger workers are reportedly avoiding the industry for a variety of reasons, including ethical and environmental ones.

But oil and gas companies aren't the only firms driving the climate emergency. According to a report published in March, the world's 60 largest private banks—including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citibank—have provided nearly $5 trillion in financing for the fossil fuel industry since 2016, despite vowing to pursue net-zero emissions policies.

"Simply put, they are lying," Guterres said last month, condemning corporations and governments that are failing to live up to their climate promises. "And the results will be catastrophic."

In his address to Seton Hall University graduates on Tuesday, Guterres lamented that "my generation—and your parents' generation—have fallen short in bequeathing the world you deserve."

"But when I look out at all of you today—strengthened by the skills you have learned at Seton Hall—I have hope," he added. "My friends, you must be the generation that succeeds in addressing the planetary emergency of climate change."

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