Posted on 27 June 2019
At the invitation of Pope Francis, executives from among the world’s leading oil and gas producers and investors joined a Vatican-sponsored dialogue on energy transition from 12 to 14 June. Most of them signed statements of support for carbon pricing and disclosures on climate change risk.
Once again, Pope Francis has acted as a climate leader. Given the enormous space left empty by the lack of courage and vision of many Governments, the Pope takes initiatives and continues to pursue them over time. He warned the fossil fuel CEOs and institutional investors attending the meeting saying, “we're faced with a climate emergency" and need a "radical energy transition." He also explicitly called for limiting warming to 1.5°C.
His position is very clear, and it was anticipated in the message by the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Peter Turkson, to the scientific community on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato si’ in which he states that the 1.5°C threshold is not only a critical physical threshold, but also a moral threshold and “it is useful to assume that 1.5°C is also a religious threshold. The world we are destroying is the gift of God to humanity, precisely that house sanctified by the divine Spirit (Ruah) at the beginning of creation, the place where he pitched his tent among us”.
I think it is very significant that what the scientific community indicates as a limit to avoid the upheaval of the Planet as we know it, also becomes a religious threshold. In fact, beyond the personal convictions of each person, it gives a sense of the potential extent of the damage, concerning both people and nature and the whole home that believers call also creation.
In the meeting with the fossil fuel company CEOs last week, Pope Francis himself recalled the IPCC Report and 1.5°C threshold, and used powerful words to link the concrete action to the religious imperative: “Today a radical energy transition is needed to save our common home. There is still hope and there remains time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, provided there is prompt and resolute action”.
In the declaration on carbon price, signatories call for “reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing regimes, whether based on tax, trading mechanisms or other market-based measures”: among them, even Darren Woods, ExxonMobil CEO. Another declaration states that “companies should provide clarity for investors about how they are planning and investing for the energy transition” and also that “It is important that board directors assess climate-related issues as part of their risk oversight function, as well as management’s role in evaluating and addressing these issues”.
On social media, some people expressed doubts about the sincerity of some of the signatories. In Italy, for example, we are still waiting for the sensational announcement announced by Italian energy company ENI CEO, Claudio De Scalzi, after the first Summit with the leaders of the oil and gas sector convened in the Vatican. Despite this, however, it should be noted that the joint signature with investors gives a new perspective.
We are also certain that Pope Francis will continue the journey and will remind everyone of the commitments they have made and which are still needed to be made.
Mariagrazia Midulla is the head of the climate programme at WWF-Italy. She is based in Rome.