G7 final communique: Nations promise coal phase-out and $100bn climate finance

Green groups have been staging protests outside the summit

The summit took place in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, with world leaders concluding formal discussions and jointly publishing a formal communique on Sunday afternoon (13 June). Aside from commitments to deliver a strong economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and build-in resilience against future pandemics, climate has been a key focus of discussions.

As expected, the communique reiterates a commitment to halve emissions by 2030, against a 2010 baseline, on the road to net-zero by 2050 at the latest. Businesses are encouraged to contribute by setting science-based targets to cut emissions and by joining the UN’s Race to Zero initiative.

“To be credible, ambitions need to be supported by tangible actions in all sectors of our economies and societies. We will lead a technology-driven transition to net-zero, supported by relevant policies, noting the clear roadmap provided by the International Energy Agency and prioritising the most urgent and polluting sectors and activities,” the communique states.

Sectors identified as priorities for policy change are energy generation and distribution, transport, heavy industry, homes and buildings and agriculture, forestry and land use.

On energy generation, a commitment to set net-zero targets in the 2030s, first flagged last month, is formalised. 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. All other “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies will be phased out by 2025.

There is little detail on exactly what will happen on transport and heavy industry decarbonisation. Several key areas for collaboration, including science, policy design and financing, are flagged, but there is little detail on target dates or new financing. Similarly, not much new information is provided on agriculture, forestry and land use. Instead, the issue is pushed back to the UN Food Systems Summit this summer and the COP26 Transition to Sustainable Agriculture Policy Dialogue.

On homes and buildings, the document recognises “the need for an urgent step-change in the deployment of renewable heating and cooling and reduction in energy demand”, to be delivered in tandem with “required shifts in building design, sustainable materials and retrofits”. The most concrete target is a commitment to the Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative’s goal of doubling the efficiency of lighting, cooling, refrigeration and motor systems sold globally by 2030. The UK’s own Heat & Buildings Strategy is due in the coming weeks. 

Beyond these sector-specific commitments, the communique states that the G7 will strive to get back on track to deliver an existing commitment to provide $100bn in annual funding to help low-income nations decarbonise while accelerating climate adaptation. An Oxfam report reiterates that G7 governments are failing to deliver on the longstanding $100bn pledge. Oxfam estimates the G7’s current commitments would deliver $36bn by 2025, of which less than $10bn would be for projects and initiatives on climate adaptation.

Also detailed in the communique is a commitment to mandate climate reporting in line with the recommendations of the global Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). This was agreed upon earlier in the week at a meeting of the G7 finance ministers. One key facet of the TCFD is scenario analysis; businesses must quantify risks at a range of warming trajectories.

The communique, in and of itself, is not legally binding. Nations must now change the relevant policy mechanisms domestically.

Nature on the table

“Biodiversity loss is an intrinsically linked, mutually reinforcing, and equally important existential threat to our planet and our people alongside climate change,” the communique states. “In this context, we acknowledge as the G7 our contribution to the decline of biodiversity and pledge to play our part in its restoration and conservation.”

This statement comes after a joint report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IBPES) this week accused governments of historically failing to tackle climate change and nature loss in a joined-up fashion.

As expected, the communique sees all nations committing to conserving or protecting at least 30% of land and ocean by 2030. This is likely to be formalised and adopted by further nations at the UN’s 15th biodiversity COP. There is a commitment to increase financing for nature-based solutions, conservation and restoration by 2025 to support this, but no numerical figure yet.

Green economy reaction

Responding to the communique, which comes after an intense week of environmental protests and calls to action online, Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) chair Philip Dunne MP said: “The commitments made at the G7 are warmly welcomed, representing a positive move from the leading industrialised nations ahead of COP26.

“Agreeing to accelerate the move away from coal has given a powerful signal that the fossil fuel monopoly is reaching its day of reckoning. Our Committee has previously called on the Government to end its support for new fossil fuel projects in developing countries, and I welcome today’s announcement that the G7 has committed to do this. But we must support other countries in the low carbon transition. The UK’s strengths in renewable energy – such as offshore wind – offer a unique opportunity to export knowledge: I hope this is championed long after this year of climate leadership.

“Our Committee will shortly be publishing a report on biodiversity and ecosystems, and we welcome the commitment to spend more on protecting nature. This must be done correctly, as many of our precious species are at a tipping point: we look forward to seeing the detail of the policy and delivery mechanisms designed to improve the state of nature in the UK and overseas.”

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s COP26 lead, Gareth Redmond-King, added: “It is significant for November’s climate summit in Glasgow that leaders of the wealthiest nations clearly acknowledge the action needed to keep to 1.5C of temperature rise, including ending our global reliance on coal.

“But with just five months until COP26, there is still a very long way to go from Cornwall to Glasgow, with delivery of climate promises lacking. This includes country emissions pledges, where recent analysis shows the G7 barely halfway to committing what is needed.

“Notably, whilst G7 leaders reaffirmed their overdue promise of $100bn a year in climate support to poorer countries, those same countries will be disappointed that they leave Cornwall with no new money apparently on the table.  Progress at COP requires the trust of all nations; if Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson won’t reverse the UK’s own cuts in overseas development assistance, they go into the negotiations with one arm tied firmly behind their back.”

Power Shift Africa’s director Mohamed Adow echoed Redmond-King’s concerns. He said: “It’s nice to see Boris Johnson’s desire to see green infrastructure in Africa, but if he really had the interests of the continent at heart then maybe he wouldn’t have cut the UK aid budget in the middle of a pandemic.    

“Africa has huge potential to harness the power of renewables and avoid the fossil fuels which the G7 used to get rich.  But it needs investment to do that, investment that the UK and the G7 have long promised but failed to deliver.  Why should Africa believe yet more promises from these leaders?  It’s time for the G7 to actually deliver on this climate funding, not make yet more promises.”

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie