‘No miracles’ for pope’s green talks
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis is due to meet some of the world’s oil executives next week, probably to give them another moral nudge to clean up their act on global warming.
Climate change policy and science experts are cautiously hopeful but aren’t expecting any miracles or even noticeable changes.
The conference will be a follow-up to the pope’s encyclical three years ago calling on people to save the planet from climate change and other environmental ills, Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke said on Friday. Cardinal Peter Turkson, who set up the conference on Friday and Saturday with the executives, said the pope would speak to the leaders on the second day of the summit, organised with the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, in the US.
Officials at the Vatican and Notre Dame would not disclose who was coming but it was reported that executives from BP and ExxonMobil would be attending.
Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, in the US, doubted anything “measurable” would come out of the conference but he was nevertheless hopeful.
Oil companies had talked about fighting climate change but hadn’t done much beyond talk, said MIT professor John Sterman.
The pope offered “moral persuasion” but if it was just a photo opportunity for oil executives to show off “it doesn’t mean anything and, in fact, it’s just PR to help oil companies burnish up their image while they continue to delay actions”, Sterman said.
Jerry Taylor, president of the Washington think tank Niskanen Center, thought the oil executives would tell the pope they were willing to accept action, such as a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.
“But what is needed is for these oil majors to tell Republican lawmakers of their concern and support for action, not the pope. And this they have not done in any focused, sustained, or meaningful way.” The pontiff needed to push them further on the morality of what they’re doing, he said.
Dana Fisher, a sociologist who studies environmentalism at the University of Maryland, said the pope was cementing his leadership on climate.
“He certainly is trying to lead for the planet – and we need it.”
Gary Yohe, an economics and environment professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, said the executives might feel compelled to listen to the spiritual leader of nearly 1.3 billion Catholics.
“This is not somebody you can ignore,” Yohe said. “It might be a come-to-Jesus moment for them.” – AP/African News Agency (ANA)