Between the 11th and 13th of June, the G7 leaders, which includes the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, and Italy met at Carbis bay in Cornwall to discuss the delivery of a strong economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and responses to the climate crisis. Against a backdrop of beautiful sandy beaches and hundreds of climate activists demanding action the G7 leaders deliberated over how they could address the climate crisis on a global scale.
Significantly, the G7 meeting began with a video message from the British broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough. He gave a stark warning to the G7 leaders stating that “the natural world is greatly diminished – our climate is warming fast” and that the decisions facing the world’s richest countries were “the most important in human history”.
Despite, efforts to combat the climate crisis being prominent in the G7 leader’s final official document released on 13th June, green groups and activists are disappointed at the lack of detail in plans to promote a green industrial revolution.
The G7 nations have renewed their pledge to jointly raise $100bn a year to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.
The agreement for developed countries to contribute $100bn a year in climate finance to poorer countries by 2020 was first made in 2009 but the target has not been met, partly due to the Covid pandemic.
Though the pledge has been renewed, Teresa Anderson, from Action Aid said:
“The G7’s reaffirmation of the previous $100 billion a year target doesn’t come close to addressing the urgency and scale of the crisis.”
Importantly, an agreement was reached by all nations to step up action on climate change. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who hosted the three-day meeting said:
“We were clear this weekend that action needs to start with us.”
This action translated into the G7 leaders all committing to a “green revolution” that would limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C. They also promised to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, halve emissions by 2030, and to conserve or protect at least 30% of land and oceans by 2030.
However, some environmental groups said that the promises didn’t amount to much as they lacked detail. They believe that the world’s rich nations responsible for causing the climate crisis, know what is expected of them but have persistently failed to deliver their promises in full.
One of the achievements of the G7 summit was a commitment to set net-zero targets in the 2030s and to formalise this. Supporting these targets is a commitment to end direct government support for new thermal coal generation capacity without co-located carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies by the end of this year. Several of the G7 nations, including the UK, have already pledged to end coal production before 2030. This pledge is particularly significant for Japan as coal accounted for 31% of Japan’s electricity in the 2019-2020 financial year and it is believed to be the world’s second largest coal supporter, after China.
The G7 leaders have promised to help developing countries move away from coal plants unless they have the technology to capture carbon emissions. A commitment was made to stop direct funding for coal-fired stations in OECD nations by the end of 2021. These strict measures, herald the demise of the coal industry which fuelled the industrial revolution, and comes at a time when Sir David Attenborough warns that humans could be “on the verge of destabilising the entire planet”.
Ending the use of the world’s dirtiest fuel, coal, is seen by environmentalists as a major step but they also want guarantees that rich nations will deliver on their previous promises to help poorer nations with climate change.
The UK has been criticised a great deal for failing to publish a detailed roadmap outlining exactly how the nation plans to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. The government is expected to publish a dedicated strategy prior to the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow in November this year. The G7 has also committed to publishing strategies outlining how efforts to deliver a global transition to net-zero will be reached. They have also promised to do their utmost to publish them before COP26.
It’s good to see that the G7 realise the importance of linking discussions set to take place at COP26 with the themes and findings of the impending Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The CBD have already commenced meetings to formalise a ‘global diversity Framework’ that would be adopted by governments across the globe akin to the Paris agreement aimed at fighting the global average temperature rise.
The G7 has formally agreed to a shared G7 Nature Compact which notably commits nations to supporting the target to conserve or protect at least 30% of global land and at least 30% of global ocean by the end of the decade.
A commitment has also been made by the G7 to “strengthen their deployment and implementation” of nature-based solutions (NbS), acknowledging that they can deliver “significant multiple benefits for climate mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity, and people and thereby contributing to the achievement of various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.
The G7, however, stated that these solutions should not replace the “necessity for urgent decarbonisation and reduction of emissions”.
Furthermore, the G7 renewed their commitment to the New York Declaration on Forests to end natural forest loss and, building on the Bonn Challenge, restore 350 million hectares of forest by 2030. The previous 2020 deadline of the declaration has not been reached and it looks like the signatories to the original declaration have done little towards achieving their commitments up to now.
The G7 official communique does outline the importance of tackling emissions from the global transport sector, but unlike a net-zero energy agreement, efforts to reduce transportation emissions remain less clear. The G7 confirmed that it would “intensify efforts in enhancing the offer of more sustainable transport modes”, including encouraging phase-out of traditional passenger vehicles in favour of electric vehicles (EVs) before 2040.
Although the G7 did agree on a new framework aimed at funnelling billions into green infrastructure, the details of this new framework are largely non-existent. The UK government has however, claimed that details of the new initiative will be outlined prior to COP26, and that a key focus will be to boost green infrastructure deployment in developing countries.
As with green infrastructure, a focus on green innovation was mentioned but again without any concrete plans. The G7 noted the importance of the circular economy, as well as electrifications and “comprehensive industrial heat utilisation”, fuel switching and carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS). Despite this, no official ringfenced funding was announced for these technologies.
It’s looking likely that financing for low-carbon solutions will develop nation by nation ran than through global agreements. Some markets will be better set up to promote certain solutions as the UK, for example, has a world-leading offshore wind market.
The G7 welcomed the second phase of Mission innovation, (the first phase began in 2015) which consists of the European Union and 22 other governments that covers 90% of global public investment into green energy solutions. The Mission Innovation members have committed to pushing “affordable and attractive clean energy, accessible to all in this decade”.
Many crucial pledges were made during the G7 summit but there does appear to be a distinct lack of detail on how these pledges will come to fruition.