Pope Francis: Providing Clean Energy Is 'A Challenge of Epochal Proportions'

Pope Francis delivers a speech during a meeting with Youth Eucharistic Movement at the Vatican in August 2015. Gregorio Borgia  AP

Pope Francis delivers a speech during a meeting with Youth Eucharistic Movement at the Vatican in August 2015. Gregorio Borgia AP

Oil executives from around the world gathered in the Vatican yesterday for a two-day conference on clean energy strategy, where the Pope today said that climate change was a challenge of "epochal proportions".

Speaking after a two-day conference at the Vatican which assembled executives, investors and experts to discuss climate change, Pope Francis said that energy access for all is necessary to eliminate poverty and hunger.

"The energy question has become one of the principal challenges, in theory and in practice, facing the global community", the pontiff said. And still, he said, as many as one billion people lack electricity.

Francis also warned against the "continued search" for fossil fuels, reiterating that civilization requires energy but that it comes at a price.

The news agency said Pope Francis concluded his speech, saying: "There is no time to lose: We received the Earth as a garden-home from the Creator; let us not pass it on to future generations as a wilderness".

Addressing participants at a meeting for executives in the oil and natural gas sectors, the pope urged his hearers to look to green energy as a key to humanity's future while continuing to stump for the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. There were around 50 participants, including ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods, BP's Bob Dudley, Eldar Saetre of Norwegian oil firm Equinor, Vicki Hollub of Occidental Petroleum and Claudio Descalzi, head of Italian energy company ENI.

"Civilization requires energy", the Pope said, "but energy must not be used to destroy civilization!"

Though oil and gas companies had made "commendable" progress and were "developing more careful approaches to the assessment of climate risk and adjusting their business practices accordingly", he said, those actions were not enough.

"The need to expand spaces for human activities can not be met in ways that would seriously endanger our own existence or that of other living species on earth", he said. The impacts of the climate change will have a disproportionate effect on the poor residing across the globe.

In a separate development Saturday, the Vatican said a church court has indicted one of its top diplomats on a charge of possessing child pornography.

The Rev. Seamus P. Finn, a participant at a conference in 2013 that brought mining companies to the Vatican, said that exercise had been useful for the industry and the Vatican "to better understand each other", and that follow-up meetings had "deepened the quality of the conversation". He noted that the poor pay the highest price for climate change, often being forced to migrate due to water insecurity, severe weather and an accompanying collapse in agriculture.

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