The top seven industrialized countries (Group of Seven, or G7)—whose carbon dioxide emissions total 25% of the world’s output—decided at a meeting in Germany today to phase out their use of fossil fuels by the end of this century. It’s a breakthrough move on climate change and a strong signal to the less developed world that high-income nations are stepping up their efforts, although funding efforts remain unresolved. Says the G7 communique:
“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 endeavour. To this end we also commit to develop long term national low-carbon strategies.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, host of the summit near historic Garmisch-Partenkirchen, led the move toward 100% decarbonization in 2100. A stronger proposal—commitment to a low-carbon economy by 2050, which Merkel initially favored—failed because of opposition by Canada’s conservative leadership, embroiled in tar sands interests, and Japan’s energy confusion after the Fukushima meltdowns.
Both nations pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, which the US never ratified. The Pacific nation has had a running dialogue over restarting its nuclear plants, expanded its domestic use and funding of other Pacific LNG resources, continued to use coal, and installed some utility-scale renewables such as large nearshore floating solar energy plants.
“The two of those countries have been the most difficult on every issue on climate. They don’t want any types of targets in there, so I think they are trying to make it as vague as possible at this point,” said a source close to the negotiations.
Merkel and US President Obama, as well as President Hollande of France, have stood at the forefront of the G7 decarbonization movement. Jennifer Morgan, director of the global climate program at the Washington, D.C.-based World Resources Institute, said that “It’s pretty clear that Canada and Japan are in a different place than the rest of the G7 on the issue of climate change.”
Nonetheless, the resolution passed. Its adoption will ease some of the fears of the developing world (especially India, whose growth is expected to eclipse China’s in the next decade or so) that rich nations are not doing their part in the climate change struggle. It provides a much-needed push for the dilatory Bonn UN climate talks to get moving. It should send a strong signal to nations currently on the fence, weakly committed (Australia), or resource-rich but politically ostracized Russia. And finally, it bolsters the chances of the December UN meeting in Paris making meaningful progress.