Pope Tells Oil Execs: The World Needs A “Radical Energy Transition”

Photo by Ashwin Vaswani on Unsplash

Pope Francis has declared a global “climate emergency” and preach to oil companies executives, pointing out that specific measures are needed to alleviate the problem with rising global temperatures. “The climate crisis requires our decisive action, here and now and the Church is fully committed to playing her part.”

“Time is running out!” Francis said. “Deliberations must go beyond mere exploration of what can be done, and concentrate on what needs to be done. We do not have the luxury of waiting for others to step forward, or of prioritizing short-term economic benefits.”

This is the second year that oil executives have gathered in Rome at the invitation of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development and Notre Dame University’s Mendoza College of Business. The theme of this year’s meeting is “The Energy Transition and Care for our Common Home.”

Attendees of the said event were the CEOs of Royal Dutch Shell, Eni, BP, Repsol, Conoco Phillips, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and executives of investment funds.

The Pope took the opportunity to urge oil executives to find solutions to address the rapidly rising global temperatures. “Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid [perpetuating] a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations,” he said. “We must take responsible actions bearing in mind their impact in the short and in the long term,” the Pope added.

Particularly, Pope Francis called for “open, transparent, science-based and standardized” reporting of climate risk and a “radical energy transition.” Furthermore, Francis encouraged the idea of carbon pricing.

“Such a transition involves managing the social and employment impact of the move to a low-carbon society,” Francis said. “If managed well, this transition can generate new jobs, reduce inequality and improve the quality of life for those affected by climate change.”

Carbon pricing is a way for governments to encourage innovations in low-carbon technology by implementing higher taxes or emissions trading schemes. It directly applies the costs of using fossil fuels that cause global warming to consumers. The signatories called for a “combination of policies and carbon pricing mechanisms … designed in a way that simultaneously delivers innovation and investment in low-carbon solutions while assisting those least able to pay”.

The Pope also emphasized the 1.5C limit on temperature from a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report—noting that the world has a decade or so to bring greenhouse gases under control or otherwise let the world face devastating effects such as droughts, floods, heatwaves and damage to agriculture.

However, with the Vatican’s active campaign for climate change action, it has faced criticism and clashing with leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump who doubts the validity of global warming and rejects the idea that the problem is solely due to human activity.

Last year, Trump rejected projections that were outlined in a report by his own government and that projected climate change will cause severe economic harm to the US economy.

Trump also announced his intent for the US to withdraw from the Paris deal, making it the first country to do so among 200 signatories.

By the end of the 2-day event, oil companies made pledges to take action to resolve the global crisis. However, there were no specific conversations on set dates nor concrete plans to achieve a solution.

The Guardian reports that the oil companies’ pledges did not go far enough, as Mel Evans, climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK said, “The oil majors knew all about the risk from climate change many years before most of us first heard about it. They knew where we were heading, they knew their products were the cause, and yet they kept it quiet and lobbied for business as usual. Moreover, “they’re still lobbying for business as usual. When it comes to saving the planet they will do what they are forced to do, and no more, which is why we’re having to block them from drilling new oil wells as we speak. Expecting leadership from them is a path to certain disaster.”

The Pope concluded by saying, as “human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.”

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