G-7 leaders promise fossil-fuel phaseout by 2100 

Source: Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 9, 2015

BONN, Germany — President Obama and leaders of the world’s seven largest economies called today for eliminating the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century.

Emerging from two days of meetings in the Bavarian Alps, the Group of Seven (G-7) issued a sprawling communiqué vowing action on everything from terrorism to the conflict in Ukraine. The leaders threw their weight behind a new global climate accord expected to be signed in Paris in December and called for all countries to submit plans to cut carbon after 2020.

“Recognizing that these targets are only a next step, G-7 leaders also articulated a long-term vision for decarbonizing our economies by the end of the century, as well as the need to be ambitious in setting goals for cutting carbon by 2050 in line with scientific evidence,” the White House said in a statement.

The G-7 text calls for all nations to achieve global carbon cuts “at the upper end” of 40 to 70 percent below 2010 levels by midcentury. It also loosely outlines what industrialized countries hope to see in a Paris deal: ways to ensure countries are cutting carbon as promised; “binding rules,” though not necessarily an internationally legally binding treaty; and a mechanism to promote increasing ambition over time.

The summit comes as negotiators from nearly 200 countries gather along the Rhine River to nail down details of what they hope will become the Paris agreement. Activists who had been keeping a close eye on the G-7 meeting said today that the agreement adds momentum to talks.

“I think the timing is good to help the process along,” said U.N. Special Envoy for Climate Change and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson.

Alden Meyer, director of policy and strategy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, was more critical of both the range of midcentury emissions cuts and the long-term goal. He praised the G-7 for jointly calling for an end to fossil fuels but said the numbers need some work.

“It’s not clear that this is really going to transform the debate over this issue, because they did not accompany this with any clear commitment themselves that the G-7 countries would up their game … which is what you need to do if you’re going to show equity in this process,” he said.

Meanwhile, Meyer said, calling for decarbonization over the century is too late. “We need to see 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, not the end of the century,” he said.

Anoop Poonia with the Climate Action Network in South Asia said he would have liked to see leaders say more about how they are going to deliver a promised $100 billion annually by 2020. The communiqué reaffirms countries’ commitment to mobilizing that money from public and private sources. It notes that climate finance “is already flowing at higher levels,” which should be maintained and increased.

Poonia called that a “welcome step” but said the road map for how the money will materialize remains to be seen.

G-7 leaders also vowed to boost support for vulnerable countries, including delivering disaster risk insurance to 400 million new people by 2020 in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean. The leaders also vowed to spread clean energy in Africa, particularly as a way to boost energy access.

One thing the communiqué doesn’t touch is public financing for coal-fired power plants overseas — something the United States, the United Kingdom and France, along with the World Bank and Nordic countries, have largely ended.

Activists said Japan fought back hard against attempts to call for development aid to avoid coal and instead the communiqué notes that industrialized countries remain opposed to fossil fuel subsidies and pledges to “incorporate climate mitigation” into all development funding.

“I was very disappointed to realize that Japan has clearly played the role of an obstacle to a strong G-7 leadership,” said Masakno Konishi, climate change project leader with World Wildlife Fund Japan.

Still, activists said overall, the G-7 declaration, particularly on a long-term goal of keeping fossil fuels in the ground, is a powerful signal about how the world is changing.

“It’s a signal to investors, to businesses, that the global economy is being and will be decarbonized. That is a clear direction of travel,” said Jennifer Morgan, global director of climate and energy at the World Resources Institute think tank.

“Investors and businesses should heed this signal … or they will face stranded assets,” she said.