G7 Countries Agree On Climate Action

Fossil fuel subsidies total 5.3 trillion dollars a year per the IMF.


Paris is hosting the next global conference on climate change in December, but the world’s leading countries have been meeting in Bonn, Germany this week, trying to set the agenda for the December conference. German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed hard at the meeting in Bonn for a plan to “fully decarbonize” the global economy by 2100, with half to two thirds of the cuts needed to accomplish that goal coming in the next 35 years, according to a report by ThinkProgress.

“Urgent and concrete action is needed to address climate change,” the declaration from the G7, a group of major world economies, said. “We remain committed to the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies,” it added.

To achieve their stated goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the group has committed to mobilizing $100 billion a year for climate change mitigation and facilitating more investment in developing nations. Anyone who thinks $100 billion sounds like a lot of money should read the report issued by the International Monetary Fund last month claiming fossil fuel subsidies total 5.3 trillion dollars a year.

“The G7 is sending a signal that the world must move away from fossil fuels, and investors should take notice,” 350.org executive director May Boeve said in a statement. “If you’re still holding onto fossil fuel stocks, you’re betting on the past. As today’s announcement makes clear, the future belongs to renewables.”

While the announcement from the G7 countries is laudable, talk is cheap and deeds are difficult. The US Congress in on record as officially denying that there is such a thing as global warming and, if there is, that human activity has anything to do with it. Also, China is not a member of the group. It presently creates more carbon emissions than the G7 countries combined.

Canada is also dragging its feet, as it has a huge stake in developing the Alberta tar sands — classified as some the dirtiest fossil fuel resources on Earth. And since the Fukashima disaster, Japan has embraced coal powered electric generating plants and is exporting its coal burning technology to other Asian countries. Australia also has enormous coal reserves and is reluctant to leave them in the ground.

In their agreement, the G7 countries pledged to facilitate climate change mitigation and preparedness in developing nations. Specifically, the group said it will increase access to renewable energy in Africa and other developing nations, “with a view to reducing energy poverty and mobilizing substantial financial resources.” It also calls for increased support for countries vulnerable to the effects of climate change through greater access to insurance coverage and early warning systems.

“Their commitment to increase renewable energy access in Africa and address climate risks from disasters will help build trust with developing countries ahead of the climate negotiations in Paris,” Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute said in a statement. “While more remains to be done — particularly around meeting the $100 billion goal — it is clear G7 leaders understand that delivering climate finance is a part of their role in the global community.”

Will the climate conference in Paris produce more actual progress toward containing climate change than the Kyoto round of talks almost 20 years ago? Some climate scientists suggest the world should have started putting its money where its mouth is back then and that it may well be too late now to stop the rise of global mean temperatures. But at least the G7 countries have now officially recognized that a problem exists. That’s a start.

Graphic by  Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

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