August 10, 2022

G7 countries commit to phasing out coal

Ministers from the world’s seven wealthiest democracies agreed to drastically reduce the use of coal and other fossil fuels in power generation, although they did not set a target date for doing so.

Ministers of climate and energy Group of Seven countries have announced that they will aim to largely end greenhouse gas emissions from their energy sectors by 2035, with the goal of “eventual” complete phase-out.

The announcement by Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States comes at the end of a three-day summit in Berlin and follows the decision of the European Union to find new sources of energy and to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas as a response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Ministers also said they would increase their renewable energy ambitions and “rapidly scale up the technologies and policies needed for the clean energy transition”.

Germany, which currently chairs the G7, has been a key driver of this engagement. After taking office in December, Germany’s coalition government pledged to advance the country’s coal phase-out plan by eight years to 2030 and pushed other G7 countries to present their plans, despite gas supply disruptions caused by the war.

Ministers from G7 countries also announced the goal of having a “highly decarbonized road sector by 2030”, meaning electric vehicles would dominate new car sales by the end of the decade.

The agreements, which will be presented to leaders next month at the G7 summit in Elmau, Germany, have been widely welcomed by climate activists.

“The 2035 objective for decarbonizing the electricity sector is a real step forward. In practice, this means countries must phase out coal by 2030 at the latest,” said Luca Bergamaschi, director of Rome-based campaign group ECCO.

German Energy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck said the 40-page statement could not hide the fact that the G7 countries had long lagged behind in the fight against global warming, “but we’re trying to catch up on things that haven’t gone so well in the past, including on climate finance.”

Developing countries have for years demanded a clear commitment to receive funds to address the destruction caused by climate change, as well as the costs of transitioning to a greener economy. Wealthier nations have resisted the idea, however, for fear of being held responsible for costly disasters linked to their emissions.

In a move to end this disparity, the G7 recognized for the first time the need to provide developing countries with additional financial assistance to address the loss and damage caused by global warming.

“After years of hurdles, the G7 finally recognizes that it must financially help poor countries cope with climate-related loss and damage,” said David Ryfisch of the Berlin-based environmental campaign group Germanwatch.

“This recognition is not enough: they need to put real money on the table.”

Coal is a highly polluting fossil fuel that is responsible for a fifth of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions. While there are ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, experts say it’s nearly impossible to reduce them to zero, meaning it will likely have to be the number one fossil fuel. to be eliminated.

G7 members Britain, France and Italy have already set deadlines to stop burning coal for power over the next few years, although the UK recently decided to postpone some of the planned closures of its coal-fired power plants due to anticipated energy shortages.

Meanwhile, Germany and Canada are targeting 2030, while the Biden administration has set a goal of ending the use of fossil fuels for power generation in the United States by 2035.

Despite these promises, global coal is expected to reach an all-time high by the end of 2022, if current trends continue.

To ensure that tackling climate change is a global effort, G7 countries are expected to offer similar commitments at a meeting later this year of the expanded group of 20 leading and emerging economies, which are collectively responsible for 80% of global emissions.

Getting all G20 countries to adhere to the ambitious targets set by some of the most advanced economies will be difficult, as countries like China, India and Indonesia remain heavily dependent on coal. China has indeed revealed its intention to increase its coal production capacity in the coming months.

“Time is literally running out,” Habeck said, calling climate change “the challenge of our political generation.”

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