April 22 (UPI) -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres linked the global coronavirus recovery to the climate change crisis on Wednesday in a sharply worded message marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
In a video address, Guterres urged nations to take advantage of the deep economic disruptions caused by the pandemic "to do things right for the future" by viewing it as a chance to move away from fossil fuels.
Calling the health crisis "an unprecedented wake-up call," the U.N. chief warned "there is another deep emergency -- the planet's unfolding environmental crisis."
Citing a decline in biodiversity, Guterres said climate disruption "is approaching a point of no return."
"We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption," he said.
Guterres called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and urged governments to instead funnel recovery money to "sustainable sectors and projects that help the environment and the climate."
His proposals put him at odds with U.S. President Donald Trump, who pledged Tuesday to bail out the U.S. oil industry, which has been hindered by historically low prices due to a decline in demand and disagreements this month between Russia and OPEC.
"We pay tribute to our nation's long history of environmental stewardship and conservation, and we reaffirm our commitment to protecting our natural treasures for the benefit and enjoyment of all Americans," Trump said in an Earth Day message Wednesday. "My administration remains dedicated to ensuring that our nation remains a global leader in environmental stewardship.
"We are working hard to remove trash from our oceans, accelerate cleanups at Superfund sites, and revitalize communities."
In his address, Guterres also surged governments to use economic rescue funds "to invest in the future, not the past," and called for the creation of new jobs and businesses "through a clean, green transition" and a "shift from the grey to green economy" in which societies could be made to be more resilient.
Environmental groups on Wednesday issued similar calls for a green coronavirus recovery to commemorate Earth Day.
"We won't get another shot at this: Only a global green recovery can sustain a safe and healthy future for all," said Jeni Miller, executive director of the U.S.-based Global Climate and Health Alliance.
Miller warned that pandemics and other health crises are likely to happen again "unless we fundamentally change the way we travel, trade, power our communities and produce food and goods."