U.N. climate chief urges radical clean-up of oil, gas industry

OSLO Thu Apr 3, 2014 7:49am EDT

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), takes part in a session labeled ''Vital Resources: Doing More with Less'' at the Clinton Global Initiative 2013 (CGI) in New York September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), takes part in a session labeled ''Vital Resources: Doing More with Less'' at the Clinton Global Initiative 2013 (CGI) in New York September 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

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OSLO (Reuters) - The U.N.'s climate chief called on the oil and gas industry on Thursday to make a drastic shift to a clean, low-carbon future or risk having to leave three-quarters of fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

"The time for experimentation, for marginal changes and for conditional response is now over," Christiana Figueres told the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) in a speech in London.

She urged an "urgent transformation" to greener production after top scientists warned on Monday that climate change would damage food supplies, slow economic growth and aggravate the underlying causes of armed conflicts.

Limiting global warming to an agreed U.N. ceiling "means that three quarters of the fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground, and the fossil fuels we do use must be utilized sparingly and responsibly," she said.

Oil and gas firms say they are addressing global warming, for instance by focusing on energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies.

In a report on climate change risks on March 31, Exxon Mobil said that all energy sources, including fossil fuels, had to be exploited to meet growing world demand.

"All of Exxon Mobil's current hydrocarbon reserves will be needed, along with substantial industry investments, to address global energy needs," William Colton, vice president of corporate strategic planning, said in a statement.

Figueres has become more outspoken in criticizing the fossil fuel industry in recent months as part of efforts to promote renewable sources such as solar or wind power. In November, she called on the coal industry to clean up.


She said oil and gas firms should start by reporting risks to their business after governments agreed in 2010 to limit warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

Temperatures are heading to breach the ceiling.

Figueres, the head of the U.N.'s Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn, noted the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world has already burnt more than half a budget of a trillion metric tons of carbon if it wants to stay below 2C.

Companies should also take measures such as cutting methane leaks, lobby for an effective price on carbon emissions and invest in carbon capture and storage (CCS), she said.

CCS, which includes technologies to strip carbon dioxide from the flue gases of power plants, would allow continued output by eliminating most carbon emissions.

So far, however, there are few projects.

Saskatchewan Power in Canada will start its $1.35 billion Boundary Dam coal-fired CCS project this year, capturing a million tons annually of carbon dioxide in what it says is the world's first post-combustion coal-fired CCS project.

(This story makes correction in paragraph 11 to "trillion tonnes" from "billion tonnes")

(Reporting By Alister Doyle, editing by David Evans)

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Comments (2)
brotherkenny4 wrote:
Actually, the only hope for humankind is that the coming difficulties will kill enough people to decrease our impact enough to slow the environmental decay long enough to let the earth recover. Sure, we could choose not to destroy ourselves, by rationally designing in changes to our systems, but that’s a pipe dream. Humans are intrisically selfish and many are masochistic and that combination is not conducive to rational decision making. Anyway, if we dodge this bullet this time our reprieve will be temporary as we will almost surely encounter other species threatening issues that we will face with as much ignorance as we face this one.

The US people were given an opportunity for real freedom. All they had to do was keep it. However, they gave it away to their industrial masters for what amounts to trinkets and baubles because they are no more intelligent than children and no more ethical. So, if people are incapable of even remaining free, when it is their choice, how can we expect humans to stop their own destruction in the face of a major technological, economic and political issue. It seems implausible.

Apr 03, 2014 2:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
snakepit456 wrote:
Not a bad job being a UN climate alarmist I imagine.

Throw enough you know what against the wall and hope some of it sticks, “work” a month or two every year. fly around the world and stay at the best hotels, eat the finest food, drink the finest wine, and tell everyone they are going to die because it was cold this Winter.

I would imagine the “carbon footprint” these meeting create is more than the “foot print” that every man woman and child in America make all year.

The climate fear-mongers, seeing that the jig is up for their theory — the CO2 is there, the necessary effects aren’t — are stealthily skulking along to the next stage of the project — namely, cross your fingers that the propaganda has taken hold so that most people will not ask you to prove anything, and then carry on making dire predictions, carefully framing them to appear to the casual reader as descriptions of events that are already happening.

Apr 03, 2014 4:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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