Pope Francis Warns Oil Executives ‘Energy Must Not Destroy Civilisation’

Pope Francis told senior oil company executives that the world must convert to renewable alternatives to prevent humanity being destroyed by climate change.

Speaking to the high-profile group at the end of a two day conference at the Vatican, the pontiff warned: “Civilisation requires energy but energy use must not destroy civilisation.”

He said climate change was a challenge of “epochal proportions”, adding that the world needed to find an energy solution that combated pollution, eliminated poverty and promoted social justice.

“If we are to eliminate poverty and hunger, the more than one billion people without electricity today need to gain access to it,” he said. “But that energy should also be clean, by a reduction in the systematic use of fossil fuels.

“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.”

The conference, held behind closed doors at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, brought together oil executives, investors and Vatican experts who, like the Pope, believe human activity is contributing to climate change.

Among the 50 participants were Darren Woods, chief executive of ExxonMobil, Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Italy’s ENI, and Bob Dudley, group chief executive of BP, as well as investors such as Larry Fink of BlackRock.

The oil and gas industry has come under growing pressure from investors and activists to play a bigger role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to meet goals set out in a 2015 climate agreement signed in Paris.

Companies are betting on increased demand for gas, the least polluting fossil fuel, and to a lesser extent on renewable power such as wind and solar to meet global targets of net zero emissions.

Pope Francis, who wrote a document called “Laudato si” (Praised be) on protecting the environment from global warming in 2015, said it was “worrying” searches for new fossil fuel reserves continued.

He said 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”.


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