Did the G7 meeting in Cardiff achieve anything of significance on the climate crisis? Some say yes, and some no. Let’s dig into it a little and see, shall we?
In this excerpt from the final communiqué we read:
Protect our planet by supporting a green revolution that creates jobs, cuts emissions and seeks to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees. We commit to net zero no later than 2050, halving our collective emissions over the two decades to 2030, increasing and improving climate finance to 2025; and to conserve or protect at least 30 percent of our land and oceans by 2030. We acknowledge our duty to safeguard the planet for future generations.CARBIS BAY G7 SUMMIT COMMUNIQUÉ, June 13, 2021
And then beginning at paragraph 37 of the communique, it provides more details.
- Domestically, the member countries have committed to “overwhelmingly decarbonized power” by the mid-2030’s. Internationally, they commit to “phase out new direct government support for international carbon-intensive fossil fuel energy as soon as possible”. Note the use of “overwhelmingly” and “as soon as possible”, rather than hard commitments.
- Recognizing that coal power generation is the single biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions, they call for the immediate cessation of international investments in “unabated” coal, and commit to an end to new direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021. This appears to be a hard commitment, but is their a difference between “unabated” coal and plain old coal?
- In transport, they commit to decarbonizing the roads “throughout the 2020s, and beyond”. This includes accelerating the roll out of infrastructure, like charging stations.
- In industry, the commitments are “to take action to decarbonize areas such as iron and steel, cement, chemicals, and petrochemicals” and to launch the “G7 Industrial Decarbonization Agenda”.
- And in homes and building, and land use sectors like forestry and agriculture, the “commitments” were similar to industry. Soft.
Press coverage was mixed, as might be expected. In a relatively balanced piece, the NY Times wrote “G7 Nations Take Aggressive Climate Action but Hold Back on Coal“, and quoted energy experts saying that the leaders failure to set an end date for coal made negotiating with China to end its use of coal more difficult. The hard end date was the signal that activists had been hoping to see.
Personally, I would have liked to see harder commitments on decarbonizing power generation, including that hoped-for date to phase out coal. I found the statements on industry encouraging. Industrial use of energy is one of the toughest challenges to solve, and it was important for the G7 leaders to say that they would make it a focus.
All of this is a prelude to COP26 in November. When the global community meets, and not just the G7, there will be an opportunity to set global commitments. It begs the question “Should the G7 have led now, or waited until November?”. Time will tell.