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Oil majors urged by UN to plan for phasing out fossil fuels

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The top United Nations climate diplomat urged the heads of six European oil majors to plan for phasing out fossil-fuel emissions by 2100 and to work with governments on cleaner forms of energy.

[LONDON] The top United Nations climate diplomat urged the heads of six European oil majors to plan for phasing out fossil-fuel emissions by 2100 and to work with governments on cleaner forms of energy.

"The oil and gas sector has an important and urgent role to play through an orderly transition to low-carbon forms of energy," Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in a letter posted on the UNFCCC website.

The comments were a response to BP Plc, Eni SpA, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Statoil ASA, Total and BG Group Plc, which last month banded together to discuss ways they can better engage the climate debate.

The European companies opened a schism with their US counterparts when they called for carbon pricing as a mechanism to bring incentives for cleaner energy. Their call was made in a joint letter to Ms Figueres and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will steer an attempt by more than 190 nations to devise a new climate agreement at a UN summit in Paris in December.

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The UN is trying to engage companies in devising the new global deal, because they'll have to make most of the investments needed to bring down emissions. Scientists warn that burning fossil fuels has put the planet on track to warm by more than the globally-agreed goal of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), melting glaciers and ice caps, raising sea levels and prolonging droughts.

Ms Figueres said she has been impressed by the "dedication and innovation" shown by the oil and gas industry in improving efficiency, and said she's "confident that there are still more efficiencies and opportunities to be found." She called on the CEOs to share their thoughts with governments on what level of carbon pricing would be needed to encourage switching between fuels and to develop the carbon capture and storage technology that would make fossil fuels compatible with the goal of containing rising temperatures.

"Through scaling up your own emissions reductions efforts, engaging in specific details about carbon pricing, ensuring your government engagement is consistent and by planning for a long term transition to a low carbon economy, your companies and others in your sector can play a crucial role in managing and reducing the threat from climate change," Ms Figueres wrote.

The letter from the European companies highlighted division within the sector as the top American companies, Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp, decided to stay out of the initiative.

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