Pope urges oil, energy bosses to lead on environment

Pope Francis urged oil and energy industry executives to be leaders on the environment as he met with them Saturday in a first-of-its-kind conference at the Vatican.

“There should be no room for opportunistic and cynical efforts to gain small partial results in the short run while shifting equally significant costs and damages to future generations,” the Pope told an audience that included international leaders from BP, Exxon Mobil, Statoil and multinational mining company Anglo-American.

“Civilization requires energy,” the Pope said, “but energy must not be used to destroy civilization!”

Francis encouraged the industry chiefs to reduce fossil fuel use and work to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit climate change caused by carbon dioxide emission and greenhouse gases.

Environmental degradation and climate change hurt the poor most of all, he said, telling the group to consider the impact of their economic decisions.

“The transition to accessible and clean energy is a duty that we owe towards millions of our brothers and sisters around the world, poorer countries and generations yet to come,” he said.

“There is no time to lose: We received the Earth as a garden home from the Creator; let us not pass it on to future generations as a wilderness,” the Pope added, quoting from his seminal papal document on climate change, “Laudato Si.”

Under increasing pressure from environmental groups and many lawmakers, some oil and gas companies are attempting to show a “greener” face by investing in renewable energy.

The Vatican’s conference, called Energy Transition and the Care for Our Common Home, was a closed-door meeting, jointly sponsored by the Vatican and Notre Dame University.

Representatives from Italian multinational oil and gas company ENI, hedge fund BlackRock and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, a California government agency that manages the largest public pension fund in the United States, were also among those present.

The Paris Agreement — from which President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2017 — set out a global action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep the global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.