Mary Robinson says governments must confront this harsh reality if runaway emissions are not to threaten the climate
World governments must get used to the idea of leaving fossil fuel reserves in the ground unexploited and unburned, one of the world's most senior diplomats has said, ahead of a landmark report on climate science to be unveiled this Friday by the Intergovernmental Panel onClimate Change (IPCC).
Robinson told the Guardian 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.
"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."
It would mean creating incentives for countries to look at other resources, as well as carbon pricing to penalise fossil fuel use, and most of all "political certainty" coming from global leaders.
Robinson said the world had a unique opportunity in the next two years, because the current millennium development goals expire in 2015, with replacement sustainable development goals in the offing, and the prospect of the Paris conference in the same year. "This is a key point a time, such a very important year."