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G7 ministers agree to speed up renewable energy but faulted on fossil fuel phase-out

The Group of Seven (G7) rich nations have agreed to speed up the development of renewable energy and called for reduced natural gas consumption as they aim to ramp up the phasing out of fossil fuels, the group said in a communique issued on Sunday, April 16, 2023.

G7 Ministers
Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura, Environment Minister Akihiro Nishimura and other delegates attend the photo session of G7 Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment in Sapporo, Japan April 15, 2023, in this photo released by Kyodo. Photo credit: Kyodo via REUTERS

While members recognised the need to reduce gas consumption, however, they also said investment in the sector can help address potential energy shortfalls, the communique showed.

Ministers from the G7 group of advanced democracies gathered in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo for two days of meetings on climate, energy and environmental policy. The issues of renewable sources of fuel and energy security have taken on new urgency following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The members also agreed to accelerate “the phase-out of unabated fossil fuels” – the burning of fossil fuels without using technology to capture the resulting C02 emissions – to achieve net zero in energy systems by 2050 at the latest.

But activists have described this as a demonstration of a lack of political will by the most advanced economies to tackle the root cause of the climate crisis.

While they are said to represent the group of countries historically responsible for climate change but also those with the most resources to face it, the G7 ministers are accused of refusing to agree on an end to any new investment in fossil fuels.

“Their decision not only contradicts last year’s G7 commitment to end support for fossil fuels by the end of 2022, but also the repeated recommendations of the international scientific community, recently reinforced by the IPCC Synthesis Report, stating that any investments in new coal, oil or gas projects will doom the chance of reaching the Paris agreement goals,” submitted the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative.

The group alleges that, behind announcements of support for renewables, G7 ministers’ decision includes loophole tactics in order to allow new coal production with unproven carbon capture and storage technologies, and uses the argument of the energy fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to support new gas enterprises.

Alex Rafalowicz, Executive Director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, said: “Investments in the gas or any other fossil fuel sector cross the redline of the Paris climate goals. There is no fossil fuel production that can be implemented in a manner consistent with climate objectives. Canada, the UK, and the US are among the top five largest fossil fuel producers and it is their responsibility, as members of the G7, to act as true climate leaders by stopping to grow a problem they have the means to curb. It is time for them to align with science as well as with the efforts of Global South countries in the Pacific or Colombia who are working concretely to preserve our common future.

“Rather than endorsing new fossil fuel investments, G7 nations must support an equitable phase-out as the only real way out of the climate crisis. The young people these G7 countries are supposed to serve have made a clear demand they must listen to: no new fossil fuel investment and the development of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, the missing mechanism that will allow countries to work together to move away from coal, oil and gas, and to protect our youth and new generations.”

Harjeet Singh, Head of Global Political Strategy, Climate Action Network International: “While G7 ministers recognised the need to scale up renewable energy, their commitment to phase-out of fossil fuels is frivolous and full of loopholes. The calls from scientists and activists to urgently phase out of fossil fuels and support a just and green transition in developing countries, seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. The rich industrialised countries are also shirking on their responsibility to provide adequate finance to help poorer nations adapt to and recover from the losses and damages caused by climate disasters.”

Dr Stephan Singer, Senior Adviser Energy, Climate Action Network International: “The richest and historically most carbon-polluting countries in the world, the G7, for the first time ever committed to quantitative targets for key renewables by 2030 underlining the need for early action in the global climate crisis. This is welcome. The objective to grow clean offshore wind power about six times annually in the next years and solar power almost three times annually compared to 2022, is a breakthrough and in line with recent economic findings by the IPCC on the most cost-effective carbon pollution reduction.

“However, there is no measurable agreement by the G7 on other sustainable renewable energy resource use, like onshore wind, geothermal. And no target on economy-wide energy efficiency which is critical to remain on a track for meeting the 1.5 C survival target in next decade. Further, the offshore wind and solar targets need to be annually monitored and verified. The G7 also failed to significantly enhance financial and technical assistance to poorer nations to rapidly scale up renewable energy.”

Glen Klatovsky, CEO, Climate Action Network Australia: “The G7 has the opportunity to deliver real leadership on climate change. While the communique from the G7 demonstrates a step forward, it is still some distance from what is required as demonstrated in the recent IPCC Synthesis Report. It is time to align the ambitions and actions of the wealthiest nations with the clear imperatives described by the science. We need a rapid, fair transition where those nations most impacted by climate change, most of whom are small emitters, are supported by those nations who have benefited most from industrialisation.”

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