Pope meets oil executives and urges them to act on climate

‘There is no time to lose,’ Pope Francis tells Exxon Mobil, Eni and BP in Vatican

Pope Francis: “With each month that passes, the challenge of energy transition becomes more pressing.” Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty

Pope Francis: “With each month that passes, the challenge of energy transition becomes more pressing.” Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty

 

Three years ago, Pope Francis issued a sweeping letter that highlighted the global crisis posed by climate change and called for swift action to save the environment and the planet.

On Saturday, the pope gathered money managers and titans of the world’s biggest oil companies during a closed-door conference at the Vatican and asked them if they had got the message.

Pressure has been building on oil and gas companies to transition to less polluting forms of energy, with the threat of fossil-fuel divestment sometimes used as a stick. “There is no time to lose,” Pope Francis told them Saturday.

Though oil and gas companies had made “commendable” progress and were “developing more careful approaches to the assessment of climate risk and adjusting their business practices accordingly”, he said, those actions were not enough.

Species and ecosystems

“Will we turn the corner in time? No one can answer that with certainty,” the pope said. “But with each month that passes, the challenge of energy transition becomes more pressing.” He called on the participants “to be the core of a group of leaders who envision the global energy transition in a way that will take into account all the peoples of the earth, as well as future generations and all species and ecosystems”.

In an era when the White House is viewed by many scientists as hostile to the very idea of climate change, with US president Donald Trump announcing withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, Francis is seen as an influential voice to nudge oil executives to take action on the issue.

Among those summoned were the chairman of Exxon Mobil, the chief executive of Italian energy giant Eni and the chief executive of BP. The two-day conference was sponsored by the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. The pope reiterated his call for a transition from fossil fuels “to a greater use of energy sources that are highly efficient while producing low levels of pollution”. It was a challenge, he acknowledged, “of epochal proportions”.