How can we provide affordable, sustainable energy for 1.2 billion people without access to energy? Why is the Paris agreement not sufficient on its own? And should anyone listen to the oil companies when forming international climate policies? In December, Statoil spoke to the no-nonsense former chief of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, to find the answers.

During her term as Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Chistiana Figueres led the UN Climate Change Secretariat’s successful delivery of six consecutive yearly global negotiation sessions, culminating in the historic Paris Agreement COP21/CMP11 in December 2015.

In this interview, carried out in Oslo in December 2016, she explains why the Paris agreement is not sufficient on its own, she discusses the alternatives to global tax on carbon, the importance of renewables, and the role of cities in achieving global emissions reductions. And she is emphatic on the role of the energy industry:

“It is very clear to me: if energy is three-quarters part of the problem, then it has to be three-quarters part of the solution. The problem is not energy; the problem is the carbon intensity of the energy,” she says.

The energy companies are the experts; they have the best engineering expertise; they know the market; they know the energy system. The industry producing the energy is the industry that needs to be called to the table to transition that energy. I have a hard time understanding why this is not clear to everyone!
Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, speaking in Oslo, December 2016. 

Karen Christiana Figueres Olsen

Christiana Figueres is a Costa Rican diplomat with 35 years of experience in high level national and international policy and multilateral negotiations, and Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010 to 2016. She led the UN Climate Change Secretariat’s successful delivery of six consecutive yearly global negotiation sessions, culminating in the historical Paris Agreement in December 2015. She completed her second and final term as Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC on 6 July 2016.

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Why is this important to Statoil?

Statoil accepts the findings of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report unequivocally. Climate change is serious and is to a large extent being caused by human induced greenhouse gas emissions. Whilst governments can legislate for CO2 reductions, the necessary reductions in CO2 emissions need to be delivered primarily by industry. Businesses are therefore an important partner for governments and civil society in the context of the agreement.

Beyond Paris

The Paris agreement is one important tool for achieving necessary emissions reductions. However, it will not come into effect until 2020. In the meantime, urgent and ambitious short term action is required to keep below two degrees.

Statoil is already one of the most carbon efficient oil and gas producers. We are constantly working to further reduce emissions from our operations. This has been partly driven by carbon pricing. In Norway, Statoil has operated with a carbon tax since 1991 and we have been part of the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) since 2008.

In 2012, we established carbon emissions intensity targets for 2020 for our operated assets. Four years ahead of schedule, we achieved the aim of reducing CO2 emissions on the Norwegian continental shelf up to 800,000 tonnes. We have therefore increased our target by 50% to 1.2 million tonnes by 2020. From 2020 to 2030 we have committed to reducing CO2 emissions by a further 2 million tonnes.