For the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, Pope Francis is a leading light of moral authority. When he speaks, they listen. But it isn’t just Catholics who should listen to the pope’s views on climate change. We all should.
In a recent address, Pope Francis has called ongoing climate change a “emergency” that, unless tackled urgently, will be “a brutal act of injustice” toward the poor and future generations.
“In effect, it is the poor who suffer the worst impacts of the climate crisis,” Francis elucidated. “The poor are those most vulnerable to hurricanes, droughts, floods and other extreme climatic events,” he added. “At the same time, future generations stand to inherit a greatly spoiled world. Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay the cost of our generation’s irresponsibility.”
The pontiff stressed the need for a “radical energy transition” in order to reduce our collective carbon footprint and keep global temperature rises within manageable bounds in coming decades.
“A just transition, as you know, is called for in the Preamble to the Paris Agreement,” he said. “Such a transition involves managing the social and employment impact of the move to a low-carbon society. If managed well, this transition can generate new jobs, reduce inequality and improve the quality of life for those affected by climate change.”
Francis’s call came after he met the heads of some of the world’s biggest multinational oil companies in the Vatican last Friday, including BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, ConocoPhillips and Chevron. The meeting served for the pope to urge these business leaders to play a key role in drastically reducing emissions.
Following their meeting with the pontiff, the oil executives issued joint statements in which they called for “a combination of policies and carbon pricing mechanisms … that simultaneously delivers innovation and investment in low-carbon solutions.” Yet they did not commit themselves to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Nor did they lay out a timetable for doing so.
Several environmentalists said they were disappointed by the oil companies’ refusal to consider cutting emissions. “The oil majors knew all about the risk from climate change many years before most of us first heard about it,” said Mel Evans, climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK.
“They knew where we were heading, they knew their products were the cause, and yet they kept it quiet and lobbied for business as usual. And they’re still lobbying for business as usual,” Evans added. “When it comes to saving the planet they will do what they are forced to do, and no more, which is why we’re having to block them from drilling new oil wells as we speak. Expecting leadership from them is a path to certain disaster.”