Pope Francis to Oil Executives: Time for Clean Alternatives

Pope Francis spoke June 9, 2018, to some 40 participants in the Symposium for Directors of the main companies in the oil and natural gas sector, and of other energy-related businesses. If any of those attending had not read Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On the Care for Our Common Home, they likely will be reading a copy on the plane ride home.
They got the executive summary for oil companies in the Pope’s June 9 address: we’re all in this together and we need to clean up our act. The world needs more energy and we have to do it in a way that protects the environment and all people.
“It is not right to sate that ‘thirst’ by adding to other people’s physical thirst for water, their poverty or their social exclusion,” the Pope said. “The need for greater and more readily available supplies of energy to operate machinery cannot be met at the cost of polluting the air we breathe. The need to expand spaces for human activities cannot be met in ways that would seriously endanger our own existence or that of other living species on earth.
“It is a “false notion that an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed” (Laudato Si’, 106).”
The Holy Father said the “energy question” has become one of the “principle challenges, in theory, and in practice, facing the international community”. And he urged swift action in the transition away from fossil fuels to more environmentally friendly fuels.
“The way we meet this challenge will determine our overall quality of life and the real possibility either of resolving conflicts in different areas of our world or, on account of grave environmental imbalances and lack of access to energy, providing them with new fuel to destroy social stability and human lives,” according to Pope Francis. “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 (cf. Laudato Si’, 160).”
The Pontiff said, political decisions, social responsibility on the part of the business community and criteria governing investments – all these must be guided by the pursuit of the long-term common good and concrete solidarity between generations. There should be no room for opportunistic and cynical efforts to gain small partial results in the short run while shifting equally significant costs and damages to future generations.
There are also ethical reasons for moving towards global energy transition with a sense of urgency. As we know, everyone is affected by the climate crisis. Yet the effects of climate change are not evenly distributed. It is the poor who suffer most from the ravages of global warming, with increasing disruption in the agricultural sector, water insecurity, and exposure to severe weather events. Many of those who can least afford it are already being forced to leave their homes and migrate to other places that may or may not prove welcoming. Many more will need to do so in the future. The transition to accessible and clean energy is a duty that we owe towards millions of our brothers and sisters around the world, poorer countries and generations yet to come.
An interdependent world is calling us to devise and implement a long-term common project that invests today in order to build for tomorrow. Air and water do not obey different laws according to the countries they traverse; pollutants do not act differently depending on geographical locations: they follow the same rules everywhere. Environmental and energy problems now have a global impact and extent. Consequently, they call for global responses, to be sought with patience and dialogue and to be pursued rationally and perseveringly.
The Pope spoke to the group in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. The symposium was sponsored by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and by the Notre Dame University- Mendoza College of Business, in Notre DameIndiana, United States of America.

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