The world is facing the twin crises of Covid-19 and climate change plus the risk that more people could be pushed back into poverty.
As governments mobilise trillions of dollars to recover from the pandemic, their decisions will have consequences on the climate for decades.
India, like all countries, is at a crossroads now and should speed up its shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy by committing to no new coal projects after 2020, the UN chief said.
UN Secretary General António Guterres said India's subsidies for fossil fuels are seven times bigger than its subsidies for clean energy.
In the 2019-20 financial year, the country's coal subsidies rose to "$2.06 billion, with overall subsidies to fossil fuel at $11 billion," he said.
So, Guterres, on Friday, renewed his call to India and other G20 countries to invest in a clean, sustainable transition as they recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UN chief made the remarks at a lecture delivered online to The Energy and Resources Institute.
G20 recovery packages showed that twice as much recovery money had been spent on fossil fuels as clean energy, Guterres pointed out.
"In some cases, we are seeing countries doubling down on domestic coal and opening up coal auctions. This strategy will only lead to further economic contraction and damaging health consequences," he said.
"I have asked all G20 countries, including India, to invest in a clean, green transition as they recover from the Covid-19 pandemic," he added.
"This means ending fossil fuel subsidies, placing a price on carbon pollution and committing to no new coal power plants after 2020," he continued.
However, the UN chief cited the examples of South Korea, the UK and Germany, and the European Union for speeding up decarbonisation of their economies in domestic stimulus and investment plans in response to the pandemic.
Also, Guterres called on India to take the lead in transforming global economic, energy and health systems to save lives, create inclusive economies, and avoid the threat of climate change.
Investments in renewable energy would generate more jobs than in the fossil fuel sector and boost India's recovery, the UN chief said.
"Investments in renewable energy, clean transport and energy efficiency during the recovery from the pandemic could extend electricity access to 270 million people worldwide–fully a third of the people that currently lack it."
These same investments could help create nine million jobs annually over the next three years, he added.
Unlike renewable energy, investing in fossil fuels is "bad economics," he said, which explains "why the world's largest investors are abandoning coal."
"They see the writing on the wall. The coal business is going up in smoke."
The coal power plants are likely to become "stranded assets," Guterres noted. "In India, 50 percent of coal will be uncompetitive in 2022, reaching 85 percent by 2025."
However, he lauded India for raising the proportion of renewable energy in its total consumption to 24 percent from 17 percent despite the pandemic.
Also, the country's coal-fired power use as a share of the total dropped to 66 percent from 76 percent.
And India launched the International Solar Alliance in the form of "One Sun, One World, One Grid" in 2015.
Also, the country is promoting a World Solar Bank that will mobilise $1 trillion of investments in solar projects in future.
India now has 37 gigawatts of installed solar electric capacity. And it has pledged to raise renewable energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030 from an initial goal of 175 gigawatts set in 2015.