The Pope, big oil and bankers are talking carbon taxes

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Pope Francis held a closed door meeting with oil executives, investment managers, and others to discuss carbon pricing, science-based decisions and the need to embrace the oncoming “radical energy transition”. This is the second time Pope Francis has called a meeting with the world’s oil majors for talks of this nature.

In comments released on the theme of the Energy Transition & Care of our Common Home, by the Vatican on the meeting, Pope Francis stated:

Your meeting has focused on three interrelated points: first, a just transition; second, carbon pricing; and third, transparency in reporting climate risk. These are three immensely complex issues and I commend you for taking them up and at your level, a serious and scientific level.

At the end of the meeting, a statement was released by 31 of the groups regarding carbon pricing. The statement, on meeting organizer University of Notre Dame’s website (.pdf), notes specifically that “We, the undersigned, agree that:

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 incentivizes business practices, consumer behavior, research, and investment to significantly advance the energy transition while minimizing the costs to vulnerable communities and supporting economic growth.

The document is signed by 31 groups, including Blackrock, representatives from the State of California, Exxon, activist groups, and many others.

Vatican image release of meeting

It was noted by many in the climate science field that oil majors have many times proclaimed support for a carbon tax publicly, while in back channels have clearly funded climate denialism.

Currently, the Attorney General of Massachusetts is leading a case against attendee and signatory Exxon suggesting the oil major knew of climate change in the 1970s, projected the volumes and effects of accumulation of CO2 quite accurately with internal scientists, yet still funded politicians and think tanks that pushed climate denialism or doubt, while withholding from shareholders the potential economic consequences of climate change.

In recent mid term elections, Washington State folks rejected Initiative Measure #1631, a tax of $15/ton on carbon pollution, by a vote of 56-43% on almost 2 million votes. Various federal politicians have suggested a “carbon dividend”, but that has also gone nowhere.

And while a carbon tax could be useful as part of a suite of policies, we at pv magazine USA have argued that a carbon tax alone won’t meet our needs, as the time passive market action has passed due to aforementioned political and societal manipulations.