The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how finance ministers can do more on climate. Pope Frances leant his name to the proceeding, which was hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (whose first director was Galileo). There were about 50 people attending, including about 25 finance ministers, largely from Europe and Latin America, plus a couple from Africa and Asia, and other key figures in international finance such as presidents of multi-lateral development banks and United Nations funds of different kinds.
There was general acknowledgment that environment ministers are not sufficiently powerful players to move governments and national economies, but that finance ministers and development banks are. There is a statement expected from this group that will describe some of the measures discussed, including those in Jim’s presentation (green funds, lowering finance costs for developing countries, etc). It will encourage finance ministers from all countries to sign a related statement of principles called the Helsinki Accord.
After the opening, there was an hour for expert presentations, which were delivered by famed climate scientist Jim Hansen, Christian Breyer, an energy expert from Finland, and ESM Professor Jim Williams. The ministers first asked questions and then there was a discussion among themselves. The Pope came for about 15 minutes, to speak and greet people on his way to his next meeting.
Jim had a very favorable impression of Pope Frances as a person, who had a gentle manner and a kind face, but very keen-minded and very determined. He thought his speech was right on target. Overall, it was a hopeful meeting and one of the great honors of his life to be invited to present his research and views to such a distinguished audience.