Get serious, UN chief tells Big Oil

The UN’s climate chief has urged the oil and gas industry to radically overhaul its business model to address the growing threat from global warming.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, warned that fossil-fuel assets may become “stranded” as climate regulations prevent them from being profitably developed.

“The time for experimentation, for marginal changes and for conditional response is now over,” she told the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association in London.

Figueres has become more outspoken in her attacks on the fossil-fuels industry in recent months, as part of efforts to promote renewable sources.

She urged an “urgent transformation” to greener production after top scientists warned this week that climate change risked damaging food supplies, slowing economic growth and aggravating the causes of armed conflicts.

“Three quarters of fossil-fuel reserves need to stay in the ground if the world is to stop global temperatures rising beyond the internationally agreed limit of 2 degrees Celsius,” she said. “And the fossil fuels we do use must be utilised sparingly and responsibly”.

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 above pre-industrial levels.

Companies should also cut methane leaks, lobby for an effective price on carbon emissions and invest in carbon capture and storage.