‘No time to lose’: Pope urges oil majors to tackle climate change

The Pope has urged some of the world’s most powerful oil companies to urgently abandon fossil fuel exploration and instead concentrate their efforts on switching to clean fuels, during an unprecedented conference on clean energy at the Vatican.

Describing climate change as a “challenge of epochal proportions”, Pope Francis commended efforts from oil companies to assess their climate risk and develop new low-carbon strategies. But he added much more ambitious efforts were needed from the industry if the world is to avert dangerous warming.

The Pope said the fact carbon dioxide emissions and atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are still rising more than two years after the Paris Agreement was struck is a “cause for real concern”.

He also reserved sharp criticism for those firms searching for new oil and gas reserves despite scientific research suggesting two-thirds of all proven fossil fuel reserves must not be burnt if the world is to limit warming to below two degrees.

“Yet even more worrying is the continued search for new fossil fuel reserves, whereas the Paris Agreement clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground,” he said. “This is why we need to talk together – industry, investors, researchers and consumers – about transition and the search for alternatives. Civilisation requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilisation!”

 Pope Francis’ comments were heard by leading investors and chief executives at a number of oil firms, including ExxonMobil, BP, and Equinor (formerly Statoil), during the two-day meeting at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences this weekend.

Drawing heavily on his ground-breaking 2015 encyclical on climate change Laudato Si, Pope Francis stressed that short-term economic growth and universal access to energy should not come at the expense of the planet.

“The need to expand spaces for human activities cannot be met in ways that would seriously endanger our own existence or that of other living species on earth,” he said. “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.”

But he also stressed the opportunity the low-carbon transition presents. Building a cleaner, society will benefit not only the planet but also help protect some of the its poorest inhabitants, he argued.

“This is a challenge of epochal proportions,” he said. “At the same time, it is an immense opportunity to encourage efforts to ensure fuller access to energy by less developed countries, especially in outlying areas, as well as to diversify energy sources and promote the sustainable development of renewable forms of energy.”

SOURCE: Business Green