Pope to oil execs: Clean energy is an 'epochal' challenge

Daniel Fowler
June 11, 2018

Addressing some 40 participants in a Vatican conference dedicated to "Energy Transition and Care for our Common Home", Pope Francis said "civiliazation requires energy but energy use must not destroy civilization".

Cardinal Peter Turkson, one of the architects of "Laudato Si'", as the pope's environmental encyclical is known, opened the energy conference Friday at Casino Pio IV, a villa that houses the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

"The energy question has become one of the principal challenges, in theory and in practice, facing the worldwide community", the pontiff said. "If we are to eliminate poverty and hunger ... the more than one billion people without electricity today need to gain access to it", the pope said. He also warned that in an effort to bring energy sources to everyone, we must be careful not to raise global temperatures, damage the environment, or increase the number of people living in poverty.

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".

"Civilisation requires energy but energy use must not destroy civilisation", he told the group.

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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.

Paul J. Browne, a Notre Dame spokesman, said the university's president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, had been inspired by the pope's 2015 encyclical, instructing "all schools and departments of the university to respond to Francis" evocative appeal on behalf of "our sister, ' the Earth". Pope Francis strongly supported the Paris Climate Accord, and has implicitly criticized the United States for withdrawing from the agreement.

"If energy companies are serious about caring for our common home, they need to take the pope's advice and hurry up with shifting their priorities - and therefore their money - from fossil fuels to renewables", said Neil Thorns, director of advocacy at Catholic aid agency CAFOD in London. "Yet the effects of climate change are not evenly distributed".

"Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest", Francis wrote.

In a separate development Saturday, the Vatican said a church court has indicted one of its top diplomats on a charge of possessing child pornography. He noted that the poor pay the highest price for climate change, often being forced to migrate due to water insecurity, severe weather and an accompanying collapse in agriculture.

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