Woonsocket Call

Pope to oil ex­ecs: En­ergy needs mustn’t de­stroy civ­i­liza­tion


VAT­I­CAN CITY (AP) — Pope Fran­cis told lead­ing oil ex­ec­u­tives Satur­day that the tran­si­tion to less-pol­lut­ing en­ergy sources “is a chal­lenge of epochal pro­por­tions” and warned that sat­is­fy­ing the world’s en­ergy needs “must not de­stroy civ­i­liza­tion.”

The Vat­i­can said Fran­cis held a two-day con­fer­ence with the ex­ec­u­tives as a fol­low-up to his en­cycli­cal three years ago that called on peo­ple to save the planet from cli­mate change and other en­vi­ron­men­tal ills.

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. Their re­marks on the first day of the closed-door con­fer­ence were not re­leased by the Vat­i­can.

While Fran­cis lauded the oil ex­ec­u­tives for em­bed­ding an as­sess­ment of cli­mate change risks into their plan­ning strate­gies, he also put them on no­tice for their “con­tin­ued search for fos­sil fuel re­serves,” 2½ years after the Paris cli­mate ac­cord “clearly urged keep­ing most fos­sil fu­els un­der­ground.”

“Civ­i­liza­tion re­quires en­ergy, but en­ergy must not de­stroy civ­i­liza­tion,” he im­plored.

En­ergy ex­perts and those who ad­vo­cate fight­ing cli­mate change ex­pressed doubts be­fore the con­fer­ence that it would amount to any­thing other than a PR op­por­tu­nity for the com­pa­nies to bur­nish their im­age with­out mak­ing mean­ing­ful changes.

In his re­marks, the pope said he hoped the meet­ing gave par­tic­i­pants the chance to “re-ex­am­ine old as­sump­tions and gain new per­spec­tives.”

Fran­cis said that mod­ern so­ci­ety with its “mas­sive move­ment of in­for­ma­tion, per­sons and things re­quires an im­mense sup­ply of en­ergy.” And still, he said, as many as one bil­lion peo­ple still lack elec­tric­ity.

The pope said meet­ing the en­ergy needs of ev­ery­one on the planet must be done in ways “that avoid cre­at­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal im­bal­ances, re­sult­ing in de­te­ri­o­ra­tion and pol­lu­tion that is gravely harm­ful to our hu­man fam­ily, both now and in the fu­ture.”

Frances also re­called his own ap­peal in the “Laudato Si” en­cycli­cal for an en­ergy pol­icy “aimed at avert­ing dis­as­trous cli­mate changes that could com­pro­mise the well-be­ing and fu­ture of the hu­man fam­ily, and our com­mon home.” That in­cludes tran­si­tion­ing to ef­fi­cient, clean en­ergy sources.

“This is a chal­lenge of epochal pro­por­tions,” he said Satur­day. “At the same time it is an im­mense op­por­tu­nity to en­cour­age ef­forts to en­sure fuller ac­cess to en­ergy by less de­vel­oped coun­tries ... as well as di­ver­si­fy­ing en­ergy sources and pro­mot­ing the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of re­new­able forms of en­ergy.”

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