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LONDON: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries on Thursday to stop financing coal and pledge not to build new coal-fired power plants to enable a shift to clean energy.

He spoke at a virtual clean energy transition summit of 40 countries representing 80% of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. They discussed steps to buoy economies, cut emissions and make energy systems more resilient to climate change.

As countries seek to revive their economies from the slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, governments and investors have called for recovery packages to focus in part on green stimulus.

The European Union and South Korea have already pledged environmentally-minded recovery programmes. But Guterres said some countries have also used economic packages to support fossil fuel companies that were already struggling financially, and others have chosen to jump-start coal-fired power plants.

"Coal has no place in COVID-19 recovery plans," Guterres said in a videolink speech to the summit, hosted by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

He said the business case for renewables was better than for coal in nearly every market and that green jobs and sustainable growth were crucial. Costs for renewables such as wind and solar have plummeted over the last decade.

China, the world's second-largest economy and biggest coal producer, said it was committed to a clean and efficient low-carbon development of the energy sector.