On Saturday, Pope Francis addressed a conference at the Vatican which was organized by the University of Notre Dame. Executives from BlackRock, BP, Equinor, and other energy companies were in attendance.
Per Reuters, Pope Francis classified climate change as a challenge of “epochal proportions.” This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has taken on the issue. Back in 2015, he issued an encyclical to bishops in which he asserted humans are indeed to blame for global climate change. He also criticized world leaders for not acting swiftly enough to address it. The pope gave a copy to Donald Trump, who famously removed the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, when he visited the Vatican.
That encyclical is what led Notre Dame to organize this weekend’s conference. The pope said that we need to move toward clean energy and reduce the use of fossil fuels.
He acknowledged the struggle facing developing countries, for which electricity might still be considered a luxury — if it’s even yet a part of their infrastructure.
“We know that the challenges facing us are interconnected. If we are to eliminate poverty and hunger … the more than one billion people without electricity today need to gain access to it. 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.”
This truth was the spirit behind cap and trade. And it has been proven to work. Emissions declined 15% between 2005-2015 through the European Union’s Emissions Trading System, capped emissions in the European Union were 15 percent lower in 2015 than when the program started in 2005. Admittedly, it’s still an imperfect and not altogether fair system for poor countries.
Pope Francis told the conference: “Civilization requires energy but energy use must not destroy civilization.”