Pope Francis tells top oil executives world must convert to clean fuel

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

Pope Francis on Saturday issued a dire warning to top oil executives, saying that climate change could "destroy civilization". Pope Francis, an outspoken advocate for taking action against climate change and for fighting poverty, took advantage of his captive audience of about 50 people by telling them that, "Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization".

Pope Francis has long shown a special interest in combating climate change, which he called a challenge of "epochal proportions" on Saturday.

"We know that the challenges facing us are interconnected". He noted that while energy is necessary, it "should also be clean, by a reduction in the systematic use of fossil fuels", adding that providing 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". He also warned that in an effort to bring energy sources to everyone, we must be careful not to raise global temperatures, damage the environment, or increase the number of people living in poverty. Pope Francis strongly supported the Paris Climate Accord, and has implicitly criticized the United States for withdrawing from the agreement. "We reaffirm the commitment that we have made to our citizens to reduce air and water pollution and our greenhouse gas emissions to reach a global carbon-neutral economy over the course of the second half of the century".

Francis, who wrote a major document called "Laudato Si" (Praised Be) on protecting the environment from global warming in 2015, said it was "worrying" that there still was a continuing search for new fossil fuel reserves.

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Pressure has been building on oil and gas companies to transition to less polluting forms of energy, with the threat of fossil-fuel divestment sometimes used as a stick. European leaders, Japan and Canada backed carbon pricing and a "just transition" to clean energy in the section that the USA refused to endorse, explains Climate Home News. During their meeting in March 2017, the Pope gave Trump a copy of the 2015 encyclical on climate change before the administration made their decision to pull out of the agreement, TIME reported.

Many had complied, he said, including by expediting plans to stop coal burning at the university power plant.

He urged participants to use their "demonstrated aptitude for innovation" to address "two of the great needs in today's world: the care of the poor and the environment".

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