Leader of 1.3 billion Catholics declares a climate emergency

“Pope Francis has declared a global “climate emergency”, warning of the dangers of global heating and that a failure to act urgently to reduce greenhouse gases would be “a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations”,” wrote The Guardian and Reuters on 14 June 2019, just about four years after the Pope’s encyclical letter on the ecological crisis, ‘Laudato Si’, was published.

“Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations. We do not have the luxury of waiting for others to step forward, or of prioritising short-term economic benefits,” Reuters quoted Pope Francis as saying.

“The pontiff’s pronouncement on Friday at the Vatican was his clearest statement yet in support of penalising polluters,” commented Al Jazeera.

Photo: Vatican Media

The Catholic Church is the largest Christian church with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide

Pope Francis’ speech to the oil executives

Your Eminence, Distinguished Executives, Investors and Experts, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I extend a warm welcome to all of you on the occasion of this Dialogue on the theme The Energy Transition and Care for our Common Home. Your return to Rome, after last year’s meeting, is a positive sign of your continued commitment to working together in a spirit of solidarity to promote concrete steps for the care of our planet. For this I thank you.

This second Dialogue is taking place at a critical moment. Today’s ecological crisis, especially climate change, threatens the very future of the human family. This is no exaggeration. For too long we have collectively failed to listen to the fruits of scientific analysis and “doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain” (Laudato Si’, 161). Any discussion of climate change and the energy transition must be rooted, then, in “the results of the best scientific research available today, letting them touch us deeply” (Laudato Si’, 15).

A significant development in this past year was the release of the “Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That Report clearly warns that effects on the climate will be catastrophic if we cross the threshold of 1.5ºC outlined in the Paris Agreement goal. The Report warns, moreover, that only one decade or so remains in order to achieve this confinement of global warming. Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations.

In effect, it is the poor who suffer the worst impacts of the climate crisis. As current situations demonstrate, the poor are those most vulnerable to hurricanes, droughts, floods and other extreme climatic events. Courage is surely required, therefore, in responding to “the increasingly desperate cries of the earth and its poor”.[1] 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. I beg your pardon, but I would like to emphasize this: they, our children and grandchildren should not have to pay – it is not right that they should pay – the price of our irresponsibility. Indeed, as is becoming increasingly clear, young people are calling for change (cf. Laudato Si’, 13). Today’s young people are saying, “The future is ours”, and they are right!

Your meeting has focused on three interrelated points: first, a just transition; second, carbon pricing; and third, transparency in reporting climate risk. These are three immensely complex issues and I commend you for taking them up and at your level, a serious and scientific level.

A just transition, as you know, is called for in the Preamble to the Paris Agreement. 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.

Second, carbon pricing is essential if humanity is to use the resources of creation wisely. The failure to deal with carbon emissions has incurred a vast debt that will now have to be repaid with interest by those coming after us. Our use of the world’s natural resources can only be considered ethical when the economic and social costs of using them are transparently recognized and are fully borne by those who incur them, rather than by other people or future generations (cf. Laudato Si’, 195).

The third issue, transparency in reporting climate risk, is essential because economic resources must be deployed where they can do the most good. Open, transparent, science-based and standardized reporting is in the common interests of all, enabling financial capital to move to those areas that support “the fullest possibilities to human ingenuity to create and innovate, while at the same time protecting the environment and creating more sources of employment” (Laudato Si’, 192).

Dear friends, time is running out! Deliberations must go beyond mere exploration of what can be done, and concentrate on what needs to be done, starting today. We do not have the luxury of waiting for others to step forward, or of prioritizing short-term economic benefits. The climate crisis requires “our decisive action, here and now” (Laudato Si’, 161) and the Church is fully committed to playing her part.

In our meeting last year, I expressed the concern that “civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization!”[2] 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, for we know that “human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start” (Laudato Si’, 205).”
~ Pope Francis’ speech at the Energy Transition and care of our common home conference in Vatican City, Rome, Italy on 14 June 2019  

Media coverage

→ Vatican News – 14 June 2019:
Pope on climate crisis: Time is running out, decisive action needed
“Pope Francis on Friday meets with participants attending a summit entitled, ‘The Vatican Dialogues: The Energy Transition and Care for our Common Home’. In comments to the group, he warns that today’s ecological crisis, especially climate change, “threatens the very future of the human family” and asks oil CEOs for a ‘radical energy transition’.”

→ The Guardian – 15 June 2019:
Pope Francis declares ‘climate emergency’ and urges action
“Addressing energy leaders, pope warns of ‘catastrophic’ effects of global heating.”

→ Reuters – 14 June 2019:
Pope backs carbon pricing to stem global warming and appeals to deniers
“Pope Francis said on Friday that carbon pricing is “essential” to stem global warming – his clearest statement yet in support of penalising polluters – and appealed to climate change deniers to listen to science.”

→ BBC – 14 June 2019:
Pope warns oil bosses of climate threat
“The Pope has told oil company bosses that climate change threatens the future of the ‘human family’.”

→ Al Jazeera – 14 June 2019:
Pope: World climate emergency demands ‘radical energy transition’
“At Vatican gathering, Catholic leader backs carbon pricing and challenges climate sceptics who deny global warming.”

→ USA Today / Associated Press – 14 June 2019:
For second year, Pope warns oil execs that ‘radical energy transition’ is needed to save the planet
“Pope Francis warned oil executives on Friday that a “radical energy transition” to clean, low-carbon power sources is needed to stave off global warming as he pressed his environmental message in a closed-door Vatican summit. Francis also told industry leaders from the likes of Britain’s BP and Italy’s Eni that carbon pricing and science-based transparent reporting of carbon risks were essential to ensure the poorest don’t suffer any more from the effects of climate change.”

→ BusinessGreen – 15 June 2019:
‘Time is running out’: Pope Francis urges business leaders to tackle climate emergency
““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”.”

→ Futurism – 14 June 2019:
Pope to Oil Execs: “Energy Use Must Not Destroy Civilization”
“During a closed-doors audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis told a number of oil executives that they need to find an energy solution that doesn’t sacrifice the environment — in order to avoid “perpetrating a brutal act of injustice” against future generations.”

→ National Catholic Reporter – 14 June 2019:
Mitigate global warming, spare further injustice to poor, pope tells oil execs
“In second Vatican meeting, energy and investment leaders lend support to price on carbon.”

→ The Catholic Spirit – 14 June 2019:
Mitigate global warming, spare further injustice to poor, pope says
“Faced with a climate emergency, the world must act immediately to mitigate global warming and avoid committing “a brutal act of injustice” on the poor and future generations, Pope Francis told a group of energy and oil executives and global investors.”

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