Searching for smart, safe news you can TRUST?

Support safe, smart, REAL journalism. Sign up for our Axios AM & PM newsletters and get smarter, faster.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Searching for smart, safe news you can TRUST?

Support safe, smart, REAL journalism. Sign up for our Axios AM & PM newsletters and get smarter, faster.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Pope Francis greets the audience during the Weekly General Audience. Photo: Giuseppe Ciccia/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pope Francis on Saturday told oil executives and other key energy sector figures at the Vatican that the world’s transformation to clean energy was an "epochal" challenge, and that companies' continued search for new sources of fossil fuels was "even more worrying" than the already high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Why it matters: Pope Francis, one of the most recognized figures in the world, is helping to fill the void in climate leadership that was left when the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Agreement on climate. The talks he called address what might be the central issue of the climate debate head on: that the energy companies that helped produce much of the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere must also be a central part of any solution to the problem.

The event: In what Vatican officials said was intended to be a low key event, the pontiff invited 40 top energy executives, investors, and other experts in order to appeal to them to find a way to address what he called "two great needs of today’s world" at the same time: caring for the poor and being caretakers of the environment.

Situational awareness: As Axios' Amy Harder has expressed, the June 8-9 conference fell between two key dates: just after the one-year anniversary of the Donald Trump’s announcement the U.S. would be the only country to pull its support from the Paris Agreement, and just before the third anniversary of the release of Francis' only papal encyclical, Laudato si’, which formally made "Care for Our Common Home" — the environment — Catholic doctrine.

The big picture: Sources in Italy say the pope hosted smaller-scale talks on sustainable development focusing on limiting population growth last November that was controversial in Catholic circles because it included discussions about birth control. Another round of climate related talks may be held at the Vatican later in the year.

  • It is clear that Pope Francis plans to play a protagonist role as the problems of development, climate, and energy converge even as he addresses other key issues for the church including terrorism, relations with other faiths, and clerical abuse scandals.

The details: Aside from the pope’s Saturday address, very little is so far known about what happened behind the closed doors of the talks. But in his remarks, Francis repeatedly returned to the need for those in attendance to make dramatic moves without pulling any punches about the consequences.

"I invite you to be the core group of leaders who envision the global energy transition in a way that will take into account all the peoples of the earth, as well as future generations and all species and ecosystems."
— The pope said during the event

Yes, but: At least two-dozen influential executives and energy leaders including the heads of BP, ExxonMobil, Eni, Equinor, and BlackRock traveled to the Vatican for the event, and Pope Francis is the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics. But there is a limit to how much can be accomplished in one sitting, even in that context.

  • As with the high-profile release of Laudato si’ in 2015, proof of effectiveness will only become apparent with time. That comes as multilateral talks struggle to maintain the momentum from the Paris Agreement and environmental groups say that chances of keeping global temperature rise to within 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius (2.7 to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels are rapidly diminishing.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
47 mins ago - Health

What overwhelmed hospitals look like

A healthcare professional suits up to enter a COVID-19 patient's room in the ICU at Van Wert County Hospital in Ohio. Photo: Megan Jelinger/AFP

Utah doctors are doing what they say is the equivalent of rationing care. Intensive care beds in Minnesota are nearly full. And the country overall continues to break hospitalization records — all as millions of Americans travel to spend Thanksgiving with friends and family.

Why it matters: America's health care workers are exhausted, and the sickest coronavirus patients aren't receiving the kind of care that could make the difference between living and dying.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Southwest CEO: "You should fly"

The official guidance of the CDC says that "postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year."

  • Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, however, took the opposing position when he was interviewed by "Axios on HBO." "You should fly," he told me, adding that "we need to have as much commerce and business and movement as is safe to do."

Cárdenas: Democrats need to be more "culturally competent" to win

Photo: Paul Morigi via Getty Images

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who's running for chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told "Axios on HBO" that the DCCC needs to change "overnight" and his colleagues need to be more "culturally competent" if they want to be successful in the next election.

Why it matters: House Democrats are confronting what went wrong and what their party needs to change after they failed to expand their House majority and President Trump expanded his support among Latino voters.