Pontiff yesterday warned leading investors and energy giants that climate change ‘threatens the very future of the human family’
“Time is running out” to avert catastrophic levels of climate change, Pope Francis warned on Friday at a Vatican summit with leading global investors and business leaders, warning the crisis “threatens the very future of the human family”.
Speaking to a range of business leaders including representatives of multinational oil companies and institutional investors, the Pope drew on the findings of the latest IPCC report to emphasise that the effects of crossing the 1.5C threshold could be disastrous for the global economy and development efforts.
“We must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations,” he said, adding that “it is the poor who suffer the worst impacts of the climate crisis”.
He also became the latest world leader to adopt the language of a “climate emergency”.
“Future generations stand to inherit a greatly spoiled world,” The Pontiff said. “Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay the cost of our generation’s irresponsibility. Indeed, as is becoming increasingly clear, young people are calling for a change.”
The summit – entitled “The Vatican Dialogues: the energy transition and care for our common home” – which saw leading energy producers and investors discuss the climate crisis with academics and representatives of the Catholic Church. Attendees included senior executives at BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, ConocoPhilips, Chevron, and major investors such as BlackRock and Hermes.
The debate focused on carbon pricing, the need for a just transition, and enhanced transparency in corporate reporting of climate risk.
The Pope called for bolder policy measures across the board, and particularly emphasised the importance of improved corporate reporting rules.
“Open, transparent, science-based and standardized reporting is in the common interests of all,” he argued.
At the close of the Summit the attending executives issued a joint statement, reiterating their support for more ambitious climate policies. Specifically, they called for enhanced climate-related disclosures and a “combination of policies and carbon pricing mechanisms … designed in a way that simultaneously delivers innovation and investment in low-carbon solutions while assisting those least able to pay”.
Green groups were quick to accuse the oil majors of once again failing to back up their calls for stronger climate regulation with sufficiently ambitious decarbonisation plans of their own.
But Mark Campanale, founder and executive director of the Carbon Tracker think tank, hailed the new statement as a step forward.
“We welcome Pope Francis’ intervention at this critical time, not least because we, in concert with concerned investors, recognise that time is running out to restrict warming to well below 2C,” he said in a statement. “We must forego business-as-usual protocols and short-term market-driven goals or face environmental and financial ruin of catastrophic proportions. Oil and gas companies have a crucial role to play in transitioning to low-carbon economy but must today collectively take those hard decisions in the wake of determined investor and public pressure, and unambiguous scientific evidence.
“In this regard, it is important that many of the world’s largest publicly-traded oil and gas companies and many of the world’s largest investors have endorsed carbon pricing regimes, in whatever form they take, that are both ‘reliable’ and ‘economically meaningful,’ in service of the goal of keeping global warming at 2C and below.”
The threat posed by climate change to the world’s poorest communities has been a recurrent theme during Pope Francis’s tenure. Born in Argentina and the first Jesuit to lead the Catholic Church, he has repeatedly used his platform to urge governments, business, and the Catholic community as a whole to take action.