The climate change challenge

OPEC Bulletin Commentary April 2019

Climate change is an undeniable issue affecting each and every one of us on this planet. Indeed it is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind both today and in the future.

The need to address climate change is not only clear in recent reports of the international scientific community, but also in increasingly extreme weather patterns and other disastrous events, which are already affecting many vulnerable communities worldwide.

The year 2015 brought the world two giant steps forward in addressing both climate change and sustainable development, through adoption of the landmark Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Paris Agreement is truly a milestone in global efforts to combat climate change, and has set the stage for humanity to contribute to supporting this cause. The Agreement, to be implemented under the objectives and principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is an achievement of multilateral effort, and is based on the truism that collective action is required to face a collective cause.

Each country is expected to play a role in meeting the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement and ensuring a sustainable future for present and future generations. Actions to be implemented under the Paris Agreement are also expected to contribute to achieving the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda.The SDGs recognize inter alia that energy is a driving force behind sustainable development and economic prosperity for all countries.

Climate actions should, therefore, pave the way toward sustainable development. This means the energy transition should be pursued while prioritizing the billions of people in developing countries that continue to suffer from energy poverty. It entails a transition to a more inclusive world in which every person has access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy, without discriminating against any energy source.

OPEC’s efforts to confront climate change include constructive participation in UN negotiation sessions and a deepening and expanding relationship with the UNFCCC Secretariat over the past few years. As per a joint press release issued on the occasion of an official OPEC visit in Bonn, Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, OPEC Secretary General, and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, agreed that enhancement of cooperation between the two organizations is beneficial, considering the importance of inclusiveness and participation by all actors involved in implementing the Paris Agreement.

The key role of oil in economic development and the right of developing countries to develop was stressed. In this regard, OPEC’s efforts towards sustainable market stability were recognized as a contribution to a healthy global economy and helping implementation of the UN Convention, and the Paris Agreement, as well as the transition to a low-emission economy.

Many of these principles were further emphasized by Espinosa at the 7th OPEC International Seminar in Vienna, Austria, on June 20, 2018, when she underlined the important role oil has played in the development of mankind.

“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.”

OPEC shares a similar view. Barkindo — a veteran of the UN process on climate change negotiations, who has been involved since their inception — stated something similar at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

“Let me begin by stating unequivocally: the oil industry must be part of the solution to the climate change challenge…

“The scale of the challenge means that no single energy source is a panacea; nor can the contribution of an entire industry or group of countries be overlooked. This is not a race to renewables alone; it’s a race to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“The industry possesses know-how and experience for reducing our environmental footprint: working practices and fuel efficiency standards have improved exponentially over the decades … the industry’s capacity for technological innovation must be harnessed within this process.”

The Secretary General brought up another point in Katowice: that energy poverty remains a massive issue which faces mankind, including one billion people without access to electricity and three billion people lacking clean cooking fuels.

In this context, the OPEC Secretariat, as a centre of excellence, is fully engaged in climate change negotiations and provides support for its Member Countries, facilitating their effective participation in UN sessions and providing technical support on climate change actions and opportunities for sustainable development.

The industry has also started to address this challenge in a number of ways, some of which are discussed in this special edition of the OPEC Bulletin on climate change. We also focus on OPEC’s sister organization’s successes in south-south cooperation — OFID — as well as industry best practices.

OPEC believes that like all major challenges facing mankind, a multilateral platform for dialogue is the best way forward. OPEC and its Member Countries are honored and privileged to be part of that dialogue.

OPEC Bulletin April 2019

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