On the heels of the IPCC‘s landmark global warming report, UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres is calling on the oil and gas industry to urgently transform for a cleaner, low-carbon future. Figueres stated that in order to prevent global temperatures from rising a catastrophic 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, three quarters of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground.

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Figueres made the remarks while speaking in London to the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA), stating bluntly that “the time for experimentation, for marginal changes and for conditional response is now over…that means that three quarters of the fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground, and the fossil fuels we do use must be utilized sparingly and responsibly.”

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She said the fossil fuel industry should start reporting the business risks of burning greenhouse gases to governments, cut methane leaks, curb carbon emissions, lobby for a carbon pricing mechanism such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade scheme, and invest in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.

However getting the oil and gas industry (whose very business model is based upon fossil fuel extraction) to embrace a greener future is a tough sell. Exxon Mobil recently stated that the company would need to exploit all carbon reserves to meet global demand: “All of Exxon Mobil’s current hydrocarbon reserves will be needed, along with substantial industry investments, to address global energy needs,” William Colton, vice president of corporate strategic planning, said in a statement.

Related: Will the IPCC Report Convince Climate Deniers to Take Action?

In a scathing response to Exxon Mobil’s announcement, climate activist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben wrote a column in The Guardian newspaper stating that the oil company’s “consummate arrogance” in the face of runaway global warming means that the fossil fuel divestment campaign must ramp up its efforts: “So now, with that information clearly on the table, it’s time for college boards and foundation heads, church denominations and city mayors to act and act firmly. By divesting — by announcing that they are breaking ties with these companies — they will begin the process of politically bankrupting them. Of taking away the social license that allows them to act with such consummate arrogance, on the very day that the planet’s scientists laid bare the impact of climate change on everything from crop yields to civil wars.”

Via The Guardian

Lead image via Wolfgang Schlegl