14 June | The Vatican

Top oil and gas chiefs and some of the world’s biggest investment firms met at the Vatican today. The gathering hosted by Pope Francis for the second time in a year is part of a campaign to tackle climate change, which he has made a cornerstone of his papacy. Companies are under increasing pressure from investors, civil society and governments to act on emissions and align their business plans with the Paris climate goals.

Joint-statements signed by both oil and gas companies and investors on the need for carbon pricing and climate-related financial disclosures have been produced for the first time and have been made public.

Welcoming the statements, Mark Campanale, founder and executive director, of Carbon Tracker said:

“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 2°C. 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 2°C and below.

“Critically, asset owners with trillions of dollars under management are also calling for company disclosures of meaningful and material information on plans and investments in the energy transition.  Similar to many existing shareholder resolutions, the investors are calling for TCFD-aligned disclosures, including the impact of a 2°C scenario and below.”

Excerpts from Pope Francis’ Vatican speech in which he declares a climate emergency and asks oil and gas CEOs for a radical energy transition (full transcript available from the Vatican press office). 

Pope Francis made extremely strong statements in a June 14 speech to Oil and Gas CEOs and investors gathered in the Vatican. The statements in themselves are newsworthy, but they are even more remarkable given he delivered this in front of the Oil CEOs.

1) Pope Francis declares we face a “Climate Emergency”, hinting at support for the demands of the Extinction Rebellion protests:

“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.”

2) Pope Francis calls for a “Radical Energy Transition”, in line with recent speeches (June 2018 and May 2019) in which he criticized “the continued search for new fossil fuel reserves” of the oil and gas companies and stated that “Fossil fuels should remain underground”:

“In our meeting last year, I expressed the concern that ‘civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization’. Today a radical energy transition is needed to save our common home”. 

3) Pope Francis makes his first explicit call to take action in line with the 1.5C goal:

“A significant development 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 1.5°C 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.”

4) Pope Francis refers to the youth climate mobilizations, at the same time that students from Fridays For Future Rome demonstrated in the Vatican demanding “Dear Oil CEOs: listen to the Pope”:

“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. Indeed, as is becoming increasingly clear, young people are calling for change.”

Extracts from Mary Robinson’s Vatican speech can be found here.