Pope Francis declares ‘climate emergency’ and urges action
Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, 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.” The pontiff also endorsed the 1.5C limit on temperature rises that some countries are now aiming for, referring to warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of “catastrophic” effects if we crossed such a threshold. He said a “radical energy transition” would be needed to stay within that limit, and urged young people and businesses to take a leading role. “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,” he said, in his strongest and most direct intervention yet on the climate crisis. “Indeed, as is becoming increasingly clear, young people are calling for a change.”
The Pope’s plea came as he met the leaders of some of the world’s biggest multinational oil companies in the Vatican on June 14 to impress upon them the urgency and scale of the challenge and their central role in tackling the emissions crisis. It followed a similar meeting last year, but this time the Pope’s stance was tougher as he warned that time was running out and urged them to hear “the increasingly desperate cries of the earth and its poor”.
The chief executives or chairs of BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, Conoco Philips, Chevron and several major investors including Black Rock and Hermes, responded by calling on governments to put in place carbon pricing to encourage low-carbon innovation, and called for greater financial transparency to aid investors. However, they made no pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and set no timetable for action.
In two statements, which came at the end of a two-day meeting in the Vatican that was addressed by the Pope and led by senior Vatican churchmen, the signatories called for a “combination of policies and carbon pricing mechanisms … designed in a way that simultaneously delivers innovation and investment in low-carbon solutions while assisting those least able to pay”.
Emissions are rising at their fastest level in close to a decade, leaving an ever shorter period to prevent dangerous levels of global heating. Every year of high emissions takes the world closer to the brink, because it adds to the stock of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which can take a century to dissipate. Recently, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere showed the second highest annual increase since continuous records began more than 60 years ago.