Pope Francis has said climate change is a challenge of “epochal proportions” and that the world must convert to clean fuel.
“Civilisation requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilisation,” he said.
He was speaking to a group of oil company executives at the end of a two-day conference in the Vatican.
Firms present included ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Norway’s Equinor and Pemex of Mexico.
Modern society with its “massive movement of information, persons and things requires an immense supply of energy”, he told the gathering.
“But that energy should also be clean, by a reduction in the systematic use of fossil fuels,” he said.
“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.”
The world needed to come up with an energy mix that combated pollution, eliminated poverty and promoted social justice, he added.
As many as one billion people still lack electricity, he said.
Under Pope Francis’ leadership, the church has moved to confront the business world on a range of subjects from poverty to tax havens and complex financial securities.
Growing energy demands
Consumption of oil and gas is expected to grow, according to analysts, remaining the world’s largest sources of energy for the foreseeable future.
ExxonMobil alone has announced plans to increase oil production in the US and start more than two dozen projects worldwide, adding more than one million oil-equivalent barrels per day.
The firm says it has taken steps to reduce emissions in its own operations, spending $9bn on the effort since 2000.
But it maintains that growing demand for energy cannot be met by alternatives like wind and solar power alone.
Renewable sources provided about 18% of energy consumed in 2015, with forms like solar, wind and hydropower representing less than 10%, according to the International Energy Agency.
That share is expected to grow to just 15% by 2030, it said.