Guess Who Also Met With Pope and Big Oil? Renewables Executives

By Lynn Doan


In the quest to track down every oil giant and investor that attended a recent climate change meeting with Pope Francis, two completely non-oil-related attendees appear to have been overlooked: a couple of renewable energy companies.

Michael Garland, the chief executive officer of U.S. wind and solar power company Pattern Energy Group Inc., said he and another renewable energy executive were invited to join the conversation last week to represent their industry. “We were outnumbered, but that’s OK,” he said in an interview in San Francisco Wednesday. “We felt honored to be there. We added just enough flavor on the renewable side to make it interesting.”

Garland echoed a lot of what’s already been reported out of the meeting. He said everybody agreed that there needed to be something done about climate change, that there needs to be a price on carbon -- perhaps in the form of a tax on emissions -- and that oil and gas companies need a way of disclosing their efforts to combat global warming without exposing themselves to lawsuits if they can’t deliver on every part of their plans.

One thing Garland said he found disappointing about the meeting: They didn’t discuss coal. “To me, coal is the near-term big problem,” he said. “If we could eliminate coal quickly and replace it with renewables and gas, it gives the oil guys a better transition and it gives us more room in our carbon budget. We’ve got to get rid of this coal.”