Switch to clean energy, avoid climate disaster, Catholic Pontiff urges oil industry

Leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has urged oil executives and energy leaders around the world to rapidly transition to clean fuels in order to avert climate disaster.

The Pope, said at a Vatican conference at the weekend that rising greenhouse gas levels were, “disturbing and a cause for real concern.”

A speech of the Pope was obtained by OGN, he said aside from the alarming amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, “even more worrying is the continued search for new fossil fuel reserves, whereas the Paris Agreement clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground.”

Reports indicated that around 80 per cent of fossil fuel reserves would have to be kept in the ground for the international community to reach its goal of staying below a maximum two degrees Celsius global average temperature rise which is the central objective of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The Pope had in a similar message to the 2015 Laudato Si’ (Praised Be) letter to Catholics on climate change, called on energy leaders in the world to show care for, “our common home.”

It was reported that the Laudato Si’ encyclical, published just months ahead of the Paris UN Climate Change Conference in France at which the Paris Agreement was signed, is credited with providing some key momentum for the successful inking of the agreement, as it convinced millions of Catholics world-wide of the urgency to act.

The conference, which was held on 9 June at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, brought oil executives together with investors and Vatican experts who back the scientific evidence that climate change is caused by human activity.

Pope Francis said: “We need to talk together – industry, investors, researchers and consumers – about transition and the search for alternatives. Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization.”

He noted while advocating for a faster transition to clean energy, that the effects of climate change are not evenly distributed. According to him, it was the poor who suffer most from the consequences of climate change such as agricultural sector disruptions, water insecurity and exposure to extreme weather events.

A world bank report had projected that without concrete climate and development action, over 143 million people – mostly poor people, could be forced to move within their own countries to escape the impacts of climate change.

It further stated that internal climate migration will likely rise through 2050 and then accelerate unless there are significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and robust development action.

Pope Francis however said that the transition to accessible and clean energy was a, “duty that we owe towards millions of our brothers and sisters around the world, poorer countries and generations yet to come.”

“Hence the need to devise a long-term global strategy able to provide energy security and, by laying down precise commitments to meet the problem of climate change, to encourage economic stability, public health, the protection of the environment and integral human development,” he added.

He also acknowledged that the demand for energy cannot be satisfied at the cost of the environment.

According to him: “Our desire to ensure energy for all must not lead to the undesired effect of a spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments and increased levels of poverty.”

Among the 50 participants at the conference were Darren Woods, CEO of ExxonMobil, Claudio Descalzi, head of Italy’s ENI, Bob Dudley of BP, Eldar Saetre, CEO of Norwegian oil firm Equinor (formerly called Statoil), Vicki Hollub of Occidental Petroleum, and investors including Larry Fink of BlackRock.