Why Are Oil Executives Meeting With Pope Francis?

“We have to stop being defensive,” Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné said in regard to past climate irresponsibilities. His words mark what many are viewing as a necessary change in climate attitudes by those that arguably matter most in these discussions: energy companies. While these statements may seem like empty gestures, ExxonMobil top executives have recently sent representatives to the Vatican to speak with Pope Francis on his climate encyclical. Whether the talks where undertaken with the intent of swaying Pope Francis, or to learn from him remains to be seen. Regardless, this action makes clear one very key factor. Religious leaders are becoming more and more influential in climate talks as we march toward Paris COP21. 

Oil Companies Look to Join Climate Debate

By BILL SPINDLE and FRANCIS X. ROCCA for The WallStreet Journal

Oil companies are ratcheting up their involvement in the debate over climate change as governments, activists, churches and some big investors gear up for a global summit on the issue at the end of the year in Paris.

The stated goal of the summit is to keep manmade warming limited to two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, but governments remain far apart on how to achieve it.

Meeting such a goal will require far-reaching changes in energy-consumption patterns and likely efforts to put a cost on carbon use, many experts say. Activists have long focused much of their effort on trying to rein in the use of resource companies’ bread and butter: carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

Pope Francis is planning to weigh in on the environment in an encyclical—a letter intended to develop and explain Catholic teaching—due within the next few weeks, which has made Rome one of the focal points in the global-warming debate. Exxon Mobil Corp.recently dispatched one of its senior lobbyists and a planning executive to Rome in an attempt to brief the Vatican on its outlook for energy markets.

For years, shareholder activists have urged resource companies to curb emissions. More recently, some big investors are taking global warming into consideration in their portfolio building. The Church of England and Norway’s sovereign-wealth fund, one of the world’s biggest institutional investors, have sold off shares in pure-play coal companies.

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