UN Climate Speech / 20 Jun, 2018
UN Climate Chief Calls on Oil Producers to Undertake Rapid, Ambitious Energy Transition

UN Climate Change News, 20 June 2018 - UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa today called on oil producing countries to make the challenging but necessary transition to renewable energy in order to enable a low-carbon future and prevent the worst ravages of climate change, which include ever more severe and frequent droughts, flooding and storms caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Speaking at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) International Seminar in Vienna, Austria, Patricia Espinosa said that this transition is “challenging but absolutely necessary”. “We continue to see the impact that human-caused climate change has throughout the world. It’s clear we need change. The Paris Agreement represents the best way forward. It has everything we need to address climate change.”

Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew last year for the first time since 2015 by 1.4%, boosted by strong world economic growth. The growing energy demand was covered up to 81% by fossil fuels, with oil remaining one of the top sources of energy along with gas and coal. In 2017, global oil demand grew 1.6%, more than twice the average annual rate of the past decade, according to the most recent International Energy Agency report.

The transformation of the global economy towards a low carbon energy system will be critical to achieve the central objective of the historic Paris Climate Change Agreement, which is to keep the global average temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius.

Ms. Espinosa also called on the OPEC members to see the energy transformation currently underway not with a sense of fear, but opportunity. “People everywhere have made it clear they want cleaner and more sustainable choices—and the market is responding. Some of the largest corporations in the world are greening their production. […] Many companies, for example, have recently outlined more ambitious goals to tackle climate change. While that progress is significant, we simply need more. Not just OPEC member nations, all nations” she said.

Read Patricia Espinosa’s full remarks here:

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to be here on behalf of the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Ms. Amina J. Mohammed.

And it’s a pleasure to again meet with members of OPEC.

UN Climate Change values the current relationship between our two organizations. It’s an important one.

We recognize the central role the oil and gas industry has played—and continues to play—in the lives of people everywhere.

It has fueled our greatest achievements and helped us surpass our greatest challenges.

It has created jobs for millions throughout the world and raised its standard of living.

It has helped build our cities, communities and infrastructure.

Yes, the oil and gas industry was at the center of all of this.

And, as we look to the future, we need you to remain in this central role as the world enters a new and transformative era…

…an era where people still require access to safe, reliable forms of energy, but from more diverse and renewable sources.

It’s a challenging transition, but one that is absolutely necessary.

We continue to see the impact that human-caused climate change has throughout the world.

In 2017, lives and livelihoods were lost in hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, flooding, and other climate-related events.

The Arabian Peninsula was just hit by Cyclone Mekunu, which brought unprecedented storms to the region.

It’s clear we need change.

The Paris Agreement represents the best way forward. It has everything we need to address climate change.

But Paris was not an end of something, it was the beginning of a new and challenging phase – a phase marking the need to raise our collective climate ambition.

National contributions under Paris, as they currently stand, will not achieve our goal of limiting global temperature rise by
1.5-degrees Celsius.

Instead, according to the UNEP 2017 Emissions Gap Report, submitted contributions will raise the global temperature about 3-degrees Celsius by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels.

The impact of such an increase upon the global economy, and in the lives of people everywhere, cannot be overstated.

This scenario leads to global destabilization, a scenario where all risks will be exacerbated.

As OPEC itself recognizes, we must make a transition to a new, more sustainable future.

I recognize that change is never easy, yet all great organizations, from nations to global corporations, are defined by how they adapt to change.

I encourage all of you to see the energy transformation currently underway not with a sense of fear, but opportunity.

People everywhere have made it clear they want cleaner and more sustainable choices, they know there is no option—and the market is responding.

Some of the largest corporations in the world are greening their production.

We’re seeing incredible interest and growth in companies offering alternative energy sources such as wind and solar.

Technology is facilitating this transformative shift.

We’re seeing progress, for example, in technology that could significantly reduce the cost of carbon capture and storage—something OPEC has supported.

The International Panel on Climate Change also notes the role that carbon capture and storage can play while society makes the transition to renewable sources of energy.

It’s just one example of one technology—there are many more.

While this transformative shift represents enormous opportunity, let me be clear: nobody is suggesting is that this transformation must be done overnight.

We recognize fossil fuels will remain part of the energy mix for most nations in the foreseeable future.

Instead, this transformation to a new, more diverse energy mix must be a progressive one.

Organizations, businesses and individual nations are already showing us how.

This includes the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative—a voluntary group made up of ten oil and gas companies.

Representing more than 20 per cent of the world’s oil and gas production, this group pools expert knowledge and collaborates on action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And nations whose economy depends heavily on oil production, have taken steps towards diversification, and have integrated climate concerns and sustainable development into their plans.

While the transition must be progressive it must also be just.

We often talk about change with respect to industry, but it’s also about people — namely the workers and their families who depend on the oil and gas industry for their livelihoods.

One cannot reasonably suggest we snap our fingers, the industry changes and there are no consequences. That’s not realistic.

Instead, we need a more adaptive approach. One, for example, that includes new training for workers.

We know the oil and gas industry recognizes the need for a transformation and has worked to make it happen.

The future and prosperity of your industries depend on how you embrace this transformation.

Many companies, for example, have recently outlined more ambitious goals to tackle climate change.

While that progress is significant, we simply need more. Not just OPEC member nations, all nations.

We must address climate change before our window of opportunity closes—and it’s closing fast.

So, I call on you to make your climate change goals even more ambitious and to move even faster.

I call on you to continue to diversify and offer more sustainable energy choices to consumers.

I call on you to help workers who depend on your industry to adapt to the labour challenges of the 21st century by proving new education and training options.

And I call on you to act as catalysts for change, using your influence to boost climate ambition under the Paris Agreement.

You can provide enormous leadership—and we at UN Climate Change want to work with you to make that happen.

Never underestimate the great power that you wield to help us tackle climate change.

Never underestimate the opportunities associated with doing that work.

Never underestimate how you can be positive forces for change.

And never underestimate that it’s entirely within our grasp to build a future that is not only clean and green, but more prosperous—in all senses of the word.  

Thank you.