“Civilisation requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilisation,” the Argentinian pontiff told a group of oil executives at a conference in the Vatican attended by ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Equinor (formerly Statoil) and Mexico’s Pemex.
Francis, who wrote a document called “Laudato si” (Praise be) on protecting the environment from global warming in 2015, said it was “worrying” that searches for fresh fossil-fuel supplies continued.
The “massive movement of information, people and things requires an immense supply of energy”, Francis said.
“But that energy should also be clean, by a reduction in the systematic use of fossil fuels.
“Our desire to ensure energy for all must not lead to the undesired effect of a spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments and increased levels of poverty.”
Up to 1 billion of the world’s poor still lacked electricity access, he told the event.
Firms and nations are betting on increased demand for gas, the least polluting fossil fuel, and to a lesser extent on renewable power such as wind and solar to meet global targets of net zero-emissions.
“You can see the effects of climate change with your own eyes and scientists tell us clearly the way forward.
“All of us have a responsibility. All of us. Some small, some big. A moral responsibility, to accept opinions or make decisions. I think it is not something to joke about.
“Those who deny [climate change] should go to the scientists and ask them. They are very clear, very precise.
“We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her [the planet] at will.
“The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.
“We need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair.
“I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet,” he told the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in a secluded 16th-century villa in the Vatican gardens.
ExxonMobil recently announced that it planned to increase oil production in the US and start more than 25 projects around the world, adding more than 1 million oil-barrels equivalent per day.
Meanwhile, renewables provided about 18 per cent of energy consumed in 2015, with solar, wind and hydropower representing less than 10 per cent, the International Energy Agency estimated. Renewable energy has grown considerably since 2015 but is expected to grow to just 15 per cent by 2030.
Pope Francis is vocal on numerous progressive issues. Picture credit: Flickr