Coal should play no part in any country's post-coronavirus stimulus plan and economic recovery should align with global climate goals, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a lecture to Chinese students.
"There is no such thing as clean coal, and coal should have no place in any rational recovery plan," Guterres told an online audience of students and researchers in a lecture organised by Tsinghua University late on Thursday.
"It is deeply concerning that new coal power plants are still being planned and financed, even though renewables offer three times more jobs, and are now cheaper than coal in most countries," he said.
China is a major consumer of coal and is still developing new coal mines and power projects while also making efforts to develop green energy.
China's 2020 cap on coal-fired power capacity allows another 60 gigawatts to go into operation, though it is also shutting small and inefficient generators.
Environmental groups have urged governments to use any post-coronavirus economic stimulus to promote green and low-carbon growth, but a study has shown that G20 countries have committed at least $151 billion to support fossil fuel-heavy sectors.
Xie Zhenhua, special adviser to China's environment ministry and formerly its chief climate representative, vowed during the Thursday event that China would make "new and greater contributions" to global climate governance and the world's green economic recovery.
He said China has already met its 2020 energy and carbon commitments and would turn the novel coronavirus crisis into an opportunity to make breakthroughs.
As the goals of the Paris climate agreement fall further from reach, the nature of China's economic recovery would have a "major impact" on whether or not temperature rises can be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, Guterres said.
"By seizing the mantle of leadership, China can help protect all people who share this planet," he said.