G7 leaders make historic pledge to phase out fossil fuels

The G7 summit of economic powers has thrown its weight behind a goal to phase out greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2100 in what has been hailed as an unequivocal sign on climate action.

At the G7 Summit this week, the leaders of the US, UK, Japan, France, Canada, Italy and host nation Germany unanimously agreed to a full “decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century”. 

Climate change topped the agenda for today’s session of the Summit, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel – once dubbed the ‘Climate Chancellor – making the official announcement on specific emissions goals. 

“We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050 and invite all countries to join us in this endeavor,” reads the official statement. “To this end we also commit to develop long term national low-carbon strategies.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has previously said that, to meet the internationally agreed target to limit warming to below 2C, global emissions in the electricity sector would have to reach zero before 2050

Video: Angela Merkel talks to the press after the G7 summit (English translation at -2:15:00)

Resource efficiency

Under the guiding principle of ‘think ahead, act together’, the resulting official statement from the two-day meeting also includes some key decisions on food security, resource efficiency and climate finance.

On resource efficiency, the G7 Summit concluded that “the protection and efficient use of natural resources is vital for sustainable development”. As such, the nations will establish the G7-Alliance on Resource Efficiency, as a forum to share knowledge and create information networks on a voluntary basis.

The Alliance will collaborate with businesses, SMEs, and other relevant stakeholders to advance opportunities offered by resource efficiency, promote best practices, and foster innovation.

“We acknowledge the benefits of collaborating with developing countries on resource-efficiency, including through innovative public private partnerships,” the statement adds. “We ask the UNEP International Resource Panel to prepare a synthesis report highlighting the most promising potentials and solutions for resource efficiency.”

Climate finance

Other points in the statement include an increased intensity of work to combat marine litter, and an enhancement of climate finance to help poor countries build resilience and adopt cleaner sources of energy – by jointly mobilising $100bn a year by 2020 which will go towards the global transition to low-carbon economies. 

The outcome of the G7 Summit has been welcomed by green groups, though many have been left wanting a more ambitious set of national policies on climate change. 

“G7 leaders reached a set of decisions that signal an important shift in development assistance and investments toward clean energy and climate-resilient projects,” said Jennifer Morgan from World Resources Institute. “This long-term decarbonisation goal will make evident to corporations and financial markets that the most lucrative investments will stem from low-carbon technologies.”

Sam Smith, head of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, added: “The course is right, but more speed, ambition and specific actions are needed. “Developing countries are ready to move fast and far on renewables, but they need finance and technology from rich countries to do it. We need to see more concrete commitments for immediate action. We also want to see them shifting investment towards low-carbon technologies in their own countries.”

Bonn and beyond

Green groups are now urging the 190 nations represented at the UN climate summit in Bonn to take the positive outcome from the G7 into the negotiating hall for the final week of talks in Germany.

Christian Aid’s senior climate change advisor Mohamed Adow said: “In this final week in Bonn it is essential that progress is made to clear the pathway to the promised climate finance which will help vulnerable countries adapt to a warming world.” 

Meanwhile, Nick Mabey, chief executive of environmental think tank E3G, believes the Summit was encouraging ahead of the crucial UN climate talks in Paris in December. “G7 leaders have finally understood that the stakes are high for the Paris talks,” said Mabey. “Either we pay the costs of continually rising climate risks or take decisive action to drive trillions of dollars of clean investment. Paris is fast becoming the biggest political event of 2015.”

Luke Nicholls

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