OPEC and UN climate body signal closer ties

Bloc of oil-exporting countries agrees on a need for economic diversification, in light of the Paris climate deal

(Flickr/Paul Lowry)


The head of OPEC has paid an official visit to the UN climate chief in Bonn, in a diplomatic first that the pair said heralds a new era of cooperation between the two bodies.

Mohammad Barkindo and Patricia Espinosa talked about economic diversification, according to a joint press release. That is code for investing less in oil and more in other sectors.

It is “an important objective for building economic resilience,” the statement read, with a high level event on the topic planned for next month’s climate talks in Marrakech.

The meeting reflects a shift in global power dynamics. OPEC, a bloc of 14 oil-exporting countries, has seen its ability to control oil prices undermined by new players in US shale and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Paris climate deal due to enter into force on 4 November puts fossil fuel producers on notice. While there is no explicit reference to coal, oil and gas in the pact, models suggest they will play a dwindling role in a safe climate future.

Barkindo, who took the OPEC top job in August, has had a foot in both worlds. He led Nigeria’s National Petroleum Corporation 2009-10 and has been on the national delegation to UN climate talks since 1991.

Among members hit by low oil prices, there have been some moves to reduce reliance on the volatile commodity. Notably, Saudi Arabia announced bold reform plans earlier this year.

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