Pope to meet with oil executives to discuss climate change

Pope Francis speaks to the faithful during his pastoral visit in Pietrelcina, Italy March 17, 2018. | Reuters/Ciro De Luca

Pope Francis will be meeting with representatives of the world's top oil companies to discuss the issue of climate change, a Vatican source revealed.

A private meeting between Francis and oil executives is expected to take place on the second day of the Vatican conference on climate change, which will be held on June 8–9.

Representatives from oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, Eni, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Pemex are expected to attend the conference, which was organized by the University of Notre Dame in the U.S.

The CEO's of Exxon Mobil, BP and Equinor have already confirmed that they will attend the conference, which will be held in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, according to Reuters.

Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods said that the oil company is making an effort to balance the perceived risks of climate change with the world's increasing demand for energy.

"We're hopeful that this kind of dialogue can help develop solutions to the dual challenge of managing the risks of climate change while meeting growing demand for energy, which is critical to alleviating poverty and raising living standards in the developing world," Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri said, according to Reuters.

A spokesman for BP said that the company's CEO, Bob Dudley, is looking forward to the Vatican meeting.

"He believes gatherings of this kind help develop a better understanding of the energy transition and the best ways for corporations, countries and wider society to participate in it," spokesman Geoff Morrell said about Dudley, as reported by Axios.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke noted that the conference will be a follow-up to the pope's encyclical on climate change released back in 2015.

In his encyclical, the pope called for a lifestyle change among people living in developed countries and denounced those who doubt climate change as well as those who say that the phenomenon is not man-made.

Francis contended that there is a "very solid scientific consensus" that the planet's climate was warming and further argued that greenhouse gases were "released mainly as a result of human activity."

The pope suggested that policies could be enacted in order to reduce polluting gases, adding that technologies that make use of fossil fuels should be "replaced without delay."

Cardinal Peter Turkson, who was instrumental in developing the pope's encyclical, will be addressing the oil executives.

MIT management professor John Sterman expressed concern that the event would be nothing but a photo opportunity for oil executives. He asserted that the meeting could just be "PR to help oil companies burnish up their image while they continue to delay actions," the Associated Press reported.