Fossil fuels must be left in the ground


Mary Robinson, the former Irish President and UN high commissioner, has become the latest senior leader to say that existing, identified reserves of fossil fuels must be left in the ground.

Speaking to the Guardian shortly before the publication of the latest IPPC report on climate change, Robinson said that governments would have to confront the harsh reality that much of their fossil fuel reserves, and accompanying economic value, would have to be left behind if runaway emissions were not to threaten the climate.

She stated: ‘There is a global limit on a safe level of emissions. That means major fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground. That has huge implications for economic and social development.’

She added that climate sceptics are ‘not based in reality’ and parts of the business community are ‘trying to cloud and distort the science’, and said that strong political leadership was needed to counter them.

This was confirmed by the findings of the IPCC report, which sets out in detail how much more carbon dioxide can be emitted without triggering dangerous levels of climate change – and concludes that more than half of that global ‘carbon budget’ has been used up. The report states that to ensure the budget is not exceeded, governments and businesses may have to leave fossil fuel reserves unexploited.

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