OPEC Told by Climate Czar to Pivot From Oil or Prepare to Suffer

(Bloomberg) -- The world’s biggest crude exporters need to support the transition away from oil or prepare for growing climate-induced destabilization that could wreck their markets, the United Nation’s top environment official said.

“If we do not pay attention to this transition, their business is also going to suffer,” Patricia Espinosa said in an interview with Bloomberg News at a seminar ahead of an Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting in Vienna. “The conversation here is a lot about business and price. Very few people talk about sustainability.”

Scientists predict floods, famines and superstorms will become more frequent unless the world keeps temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century. The risks posed by runaway climate change have mobilized trillions of dollars of investments by companies and economies transitioning to renewable energy, electric transport and more efficient technologies. Oil majors including Total SA and Royal Dutch Shell Plc have increasingly shown interest in diversifying investments away from fossil fuels and toward greener energy.

“This is about the survival of their business and what are they going to do,” said Espinosa, the Mexican diplomat who opened talks with OPEC when she became executive secretary of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2013. “They need markets and resiliency and that requires attention to climate change.”

OPEC Told by Climate Czar to Pivot From Oil or Prepare to Suffer

Espinosa said OPEC ministers and oil executives had mixed reactions to her speech. She’s encouraging oil producers to begin reinvesting their vast profits in renewable technologies as a hedge against climate risks.

The damage done by Hurricane Harvey last year is one example of the rising dangers and should serve as a warning to producers, Espinosa said. The storm ravaged the massive fuel-making industry along the Texas coast, flooding cities and disrupting refineries. Climate scientists say a warmer planet increases the power of hurricanes.

“They need economies that are thriving and countries that are growing for business to work,” Espinosa said. “That will not happen if we do not pay attention to climate change. We will have global destabilization, crisis everywhere.”

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