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POPE FRANCIS warned global oil executives at the weekend that human-caused climate change “is a challenge of epochal proportions,” pointing out that satisfying the world’s energy needs “must not destroy civilisation.”
The Pope held a two-day conference with oil chiefs as a follow-up to his encyclical three years ago that called on people to save the planet from climate change, which the world’s oil companies have played a major role in causing.
Participants included the chief executives of Italian oil giant Eni, BP, ExxonMobil and Norway’s Statoil, as well as scientists and managers of major investment funds.
Francis challenged them on their “continued search for fossil fuel reserves,” two-and-a-half years after the Paris climate accord “clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground.”
“Civilisation requires energy, but energy must not destroy civilisation,” he implored.
Top climate scientists warned in January 2015 that 82 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves must be left unburnt if global warming is to be limited to 2°C by 2100 — a scenario that would still cause substantial devastation of the planet.
But very little action has been taken by the world’s main polluters since then, and the Paris Agreement of November 2015 lets countries set their own goals.
Experts say that the combined global pledges are nowhere near enough to stay within the 2°C limit — and most countries are not even meeting those lacklustre targets.
Environmental campaigners and energy experts 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 pontiff 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.
He warned that 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.”
The Pope called for a “long-term global strategy to provide energy security,” along with “precise commitments” to tackle climate change.
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