OPEC embraces adoption of historic Paris Agreement on climate change

OPEC Bulletin Commentary January-February 2016

OPEC welcomes the historic Paris Agreement on climate change — a testament to an enduring multilateral collaborative effort to address this pressing issue. The Agreement, which comes after many years of negotiations, outlines the world’s collective response to tackle climate change. The unprecedented gathering of 150 heads of state and government at COP211 in Paris demonstrated both political will and commitment in realizing this landmark international achievement. OPEC considers the Agreement to be forward-looking, ambitious, supportive of sustainable development and vital for protecting the planet.

The Paris Agreement seeks to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. It calls for sustainable development by providing opportunities for the Parties to reduce their emissions through economy-wide and sectoral mitigation actions, in accordance with their state of development, their national circumstances, and in full compliance with the principles and provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

OPEC has long underscored its support for sustainable development.

As highlighted by OPEC Secretary General, Abdalla Salem El-Badri, OPEC Member Countries have continually sought opportunities to learn about ‘best practices’ in sustainable development, through exchanging ideas and sharing important lessons with other countries.

“In addition, they have actively helped other developing countries in their own development efforts — through bilateral and multilateral aid programmes,” he said.

Following the Paris Agreement, El-Badri, speaking at the Chatham House Conference in January, commented: “The challenges related to the environment and climate change are a concern to us all. We all live in the same world. In this regard, we need to be practical, realistic and equitable.”

Historically, energy has been the engine for economic growth. Much of today’s socio-economic development is owed to past energy use through various human activities; the development benefits arising from these activities have also resulted in a footprint of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Betterment in living standards through electricity, heating, cooling, lighting, transportation and other activities is taken for granted by many, but there are also those who are deprived of these and who aspire to access them in the future. Therefore, climate actions need to consider the development needs of developing countries.

Measures such as the development of a high-tech industry or strengthening the contribution of the service sector to the economy have enabled some developed countries to reduce their energy and/or GHG emissions footprint per unit of GDP. However, their need to import energy and/or emissions-intensive products, such as steel or cement, has not been eliminated. Their reliance on the import of such products from developing countries effectively only shifts their GHG emissions footprint.

Sustaining the current level of socio-economic development, and enabling those in poverty to develop, requires the use of energy. The Paris Agreement calls for “equity” for all countries to develop in a sustainable manner. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that less-developed countries and future generations will have equitable access to development opportunities. Furthermore, sustainable development is a collective endeavor and can only be achieved through collective efforts — the Paris Agreement provides an effective platform for such collective efforts by establishing mechanisms for financial support and technology transfer from developed to developing countries for GHG emissions reduction.

Of paramount importance, alleviating energy poverty must take centre stage in climate policies, as many people have no access to lighting and are literally left in the dark; an estimated 1.1 billion people still do not have access to electricity.2 The COP21 outcome calls for “the need to promote universal access to sustainable energy in developing countries, in particular in Africa.”

The oil industry can contribute to this effort by increasing the diversity and continuity of energy services to the poor.

While all OPEC Member Countries are developing countries and aspire to develop, they have also been supportive of other developing nations.

As early as 1975, OPEC was given a mandate to include sustainable development and address environmental matters in its overall work programme.

To that end, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) was established by OPEC Member Countries in 1976 as a collective channel of aid to developing countries. To date 134 countries have benefitted from OFID’s financial assistance, totalling $18.7bn through 3,529 operations — many of which are in Africa and address poverty alleviation, including energy poverty, through a range of actions that also support access to renewable energy sources. In addition, most OPEC Member Countries have established funds for international help and cooperation.

Without doubt, climate change is a multi-faceted, complex global challenge that will require the cooperation of all countries to effectively implement the Paris Agreement in a manner that is fair, far-reaching and respects human values.

The petroleum industry has rapidly evolved to become ever-more efficient and environmentally friendly. Improving technology will enhance this ongoing push in the future.

The world has reached a critical turning point with the Paris Agreement. Its ratification and orderly implementation will put the entire world community on a sustainable path that secures everyone’s future and preserves the planet for coming generations.


1.  COP21 was the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

2Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), 2015, at www.se4all.org/tracking-progress.

OPEC Bulletin January-February 2016

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