Some of the world's major oil producers pledged today to support "economically meaningful" carbon pricing regimes after a personal appeal from Pope Francis to avoid "perpetrating a brutal act of injustice" against the poor and future generations.
The companies, including ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Chevron and Eni, said in a joint statement at the end of a Vatican climate summit that governments should set such pricing regimes at a level that encourages business and investment, while "minimising the costs to vulnerable communities and supporting economic growth."
The CEOs, as well as leaders of major asset managers such as BlackRock and BNP Paribas, also called for companies to provide investors with clarity about the risks climate change poses to their businesses and how they plan to transition to cleaner energy sources.
The joint statement was issued at the end of a closed-door summit in the Vatican gardens, the second time the Holy See has convened the world's petroleum leaders for private talks on climate change, scientific research and the moral imperative to save God's creation.
Francis attended today's session and told the gathering that a "radical energy transition" to clean, low-carbon power sources was needed and that if managed well, would "generate new jobs, reduce inequality and improve the quality of life for those affected by climate change."
"Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations," he said.
In their joint statement, the CEOs said "Reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing regimes, whether based on tax, trading mechanisms or other market-based measures, should be set by governments at a level that incentivises business practices ... while minimising the costs to vulnerable communities and supporting economic growth."
The pledge comes ahead of a European Union summit next week at which leaders will discuss the bloc's efforts to combat climate change including a proposal to stop adding carbon to the atmosphere by 2050.
While the announcement refers to the 2015 Paris accord's goal of "keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius" by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times, experts say capping the rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius would be safer.
Outside the summit, around half-a-dozen protesters held up signs urging the oil executives to listen to the pope.
The meeting was held under unusual secrecy even by Vatican standards, with the program and guest list initially unpublished. A few executives confirmed their presence ahead of time, including the chief executives of BP and Eni, Bob Dudley and Claudio Descalzi.
The summit was co-organised by the University of Notre Dame, whose president, the Reverend John Jenkins, praised the commitment taken by the industry leaders.
The commitments taken "won't solve the problem themselves," he said. "But they're extremely important first steps toward doing that."
Francis has dedicated a major teaching document to the environment and is expected to press his case at a Vatican meeting of Amazon bishops later this year.