The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, Pope Francis, has warned oil executives that satisfying the globe’s energy needs “must not destroy civilisation”, calling the transition to cleaner energy sources “a challenge of epochal proportions”.
The Vatican said the two-day conference with Oil Executives was meant as a follow-up to the pope’s encyclical three years ago calling on people to save the planet from the ravages of climate change and other environmental ills.
Newsagency reports said participants included the CEOs of Italian oil giant ENI, British Petroleum, ExxonMobil and Norway’s Statoil as well as scientists and managers of major investment funds.
The Vatican did not release their remarks on the first day of the closed-door conference.
While Pope Francis lauded the oil executives for embedding an assessment of climate change risks into their planning strategies, he also put them on notice for their “continued search for fossil fuel reserves”, two-and-a-half years after the United Nations sponsored Paris Agreement on climate change “clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground”.
“Civilisation requires Energy, but energy must not destroy civilisation,” he implored.
Energy experts and those who advocate fighting climate change expressed doubts before the conference that it would amount to anything other than a public relations opportunity for the companies to burnish their image without making meaningful changes.
In his remarks, the pope said he hoped the meeting gave participants the chance to “re-examine old assumptions and gain new perspectives”.
Pope Francis said that modern society with its “massive movement of information, persons and things requires an immense supply of energy”.
However, he said, as many as one billion people still lacked electricity.
The pope said meeting the energy needs of everyone on the planet must be done in ways “that avoid creating environmental imbalances, resulting in deterioration and pollution that is gravely harmful to our human family, both now and in the future”.
Pope Frances also recalled his own appeal in the Laudato Si encyclical for an energy policy “aimed at averting disastrous climate changes that could compromise the well-being and future of the human family, and our common home”.
That included transitioning to efficient, clean energy sources.
“This is a challenge of epochal proportions,” he said at the meeting, newsagencies reported.
“At the same time it is an immense opportunity to encourage efforts to ensure fuller access to energy by less developed countries, as well as diversifying energy sources and promoting the sustainable development of renewable forms of energy.”
The pope called for a “long-term global strategy to provide energy security”, along with “precise commitments” to tackle the challenge of climate change.
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