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United Nations, Climate Censor: Secretary-General wants to ban advertising by fossil-fuel companies

By WSJ The Editorial Board

The United Nations has lousy ideas about nearly everything these days, but sometimes even Turtle Bay outdoes itself. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did that last week when he said countries should ban advertising for fossil fuels.

“Many in the fossil fuel industry have shamelessly greenwashed—even as they have sought to delay climate action,” Mr. Guterres said. “I urge every country to ban advertising from fossil-fuel companies. And I urge news media and tech companies to stop taking fossil-fuel advertising.”

“Greenwashing” is the word climate alarmists use to attack anyone who disagrees with them. Mr. Guterres lacks the power to enforce an advertising restriction, and thank goodness. But he is using his bully pulpit to call for what amounts to global censorship of anyone speaking on behalf of the industry that supplies most of the world’s energy. He wants to censor anyone who doesn’t sign up to the U.N. climate agenda.

Has he heard of freedom of speech and press? Then again, this is the fellow who indulges China and Vietnam on the Human Rights Council, so maybe he doesn’t care. If he did he might worry about the forced labor of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

In the U.S. the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, and the Supreme Court has said that includes commercial speech. Mr. Guterres tried to analogize a fossil-fuel advertising ban to restrictions on marketing tobacco and other “products that harm human health.” But tobacco and alcohol are illegal for minors in the U.S. and other countries. Fossil fuels remain a legal and regulated resource that supplies 60% of U.S. electric power.

The Secretary-General knows this, but perhaps he’s trying to build pressure that can then be used in corporate proxy fights. While proxy proposals were designed to give shareholders a voice in a company’s ability to return value, leftist muckrakers like ISS, Glass Lewis and Arjuna Capital now use the process to punish the companies whose shares they hold.