Oil executives from around the world gathered in the Vatican yesterday for a two-day conference on clean energy strategy, where the Pope today said that climate change was a challenge of "epochal proportions". Coming up with an adequate energy mix is critical to fight pollution and poverty while promoting social equality, he said An alliance must be formed, he said, to confront what he called the two great fragilities in the world: Poverty and the environment.
In 2015, his second encyclical was dedicated to the issue, describing it as "one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day". "Our desire is to provide energy for all should not lead to undesirable effect to irreversible climate change", said the Pontiff.
About 50 people participated in the conference, including Claudio Descalzi, head of Italy's Eni, Bob Dudley of BP, Darren Woods, CEO of ExxonMobil, Eldar Saetre, Vicki Hollub of Occidental Petroleum, and investors, including Larry Fink of BlackRock.
The oil and gas industry has faced increased pressure from investors and ecological activists to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as outlined in the 2016 Paris climate agreement.
Francis said Saturday that while the oil and gas companies have made progress toward cleaner fuel and more climate-friendly business practices, there was still more work to do.
This weekend's conference comes about three years after the publication of Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si' that blames the majority of global warming on human behavior and calls it a significant threat to human life. On Thursday, Norwegian energy company Equinor said the global transition to more sustainable energy was happening too slowly to meet the 2 degree target agreed to in the Paris Climate Accord.
In his remarks, the pope said he hoped the meeting gave participants the chance to "re-examine old assumptions and gain new perspectives".
"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. 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. "It's a question fossil fuel executives would do well to ask themselves", he said.