UNFCCC Executive Secretary Urges OPEC Countries to Transition to Renewable Energy


21 June 2018: Addressing the seventh Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) International Seminar, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa called on oil producing countries to transition to renewable energy to enable a low-carbon future and help mitigate the worst climate change impacts, including more severe and frequent droughts, flooding and storms.

Speaking at the seminar, which convened in Vienna, Austria, from 20-21 June 2018, she called the transition “challenging but absolutely necessary.”

In 2017, fossil fuels covered around 80% of growing energy demand, with oil still one of the top energy sources, alongside gas and coal. Global oil demand grew 1.6% that year, more than twice the average annual rate of the past decade, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Speaking on behalf of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, Espinosa reiterated the central role that the oil and gas industry plays in people’s lives. Noting the opportunities provided by an energy transformation, Espinosa stated that some of the world’s largest corporations are greening their production and have outlined ambitious climate goals. She said more companies are offering alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, thanks to technology that is facilitating this shift. For example, Espinosa underscored progress on technology that could reduce the cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS), which can play a critical role in the transition to renewable energy sources.

Regarding specific actions, she highlighted the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a voluntary group comprised of ten oil and gas companies representing more than 20% of the world’s oil and gas production, which shares knowledge and collaborates on action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. She noted that countries whose economies depend on oil production have begun to diversify and integrate climate concerns and sustainable development into their plans.

Stressing the need for a just transition that considers workers and their families who depend on the oil and gas industry for their livelihoods, Espinosa called for an adaptive approach that includes training new workers. Going forward, she called on the oil and gas industry to continue to diversify and offer more sustainable energy choices to consumers, and help its workers adapt to 21st century labor challenges by providing new education and training options.

Pope Francis also recently called on oil executives and energy leaders to switch to clean energy to combat climate change, noting that the continued search for new fossil fuel reserves is even more concerning than the increased levels of emissions.

The seventh OPEC International Seminar, which met under the theme ‘Petroleum: Cooperation for a Sustainable Future,’ underscored the need for continuing cooperation and dialogue with all oil industry stakeholders, including producers and consumers.

OPEC is an intergovernmental organization that was created in 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to ensure a secure and stable international oil market by promoting cooperation and dialogue among all stakeholders. OPEC, which currently has 15 members, aims to coordinate petroleum policies among member countries to secure: fair and stable prices for petroleum producers; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations; and a fair return on capital to investors. Current OPEC members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Congo, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Venezuela. [UNFCCC Press Release] [OPEC International Seminar]



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