Climate

G7 Leaders Agree On Action To Limit Global Warming To 2 Degrees

CREDIT: Michael Kappeler/Pool Photo via AP

Group of Seven (G7) leaders agreed to limit global warming to 2°C at a meeting in Germany on Monday, a feat they hope to accomplish by reducing their carbon emissions, mobilizing $100 billion a year for climate change mitigation, and facilitating more investment in developing nations.

“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.

Fossil fuels — primarily for the electricity and transportation sectors — are the leading contributor to human-caused climate change. Last month, the International Monetary Fund released a report stating that fossil fuel subsidies, including both direct financial assistance and related costs, were costing $5.3 trillion a year globally.

The G7, which includes Germany, France, Japan, Canada, the United States, Italy, and the United Kingdom, put out the agreement in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year. While the agreement is non-binding, it still marks progress towards a final climate change agreement in December.

Environmental groups applauded the announcement, heralding it as a blow against the fossil fuel industry.

“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.”

Coming to an agreement at this G7 meeting was a key goal for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to Politico. She reportedly pushed G7 members to support a plan to “fully decarbonize” the world’s energy systems by 2100, with half to two-thirds of the reductions in emissions coming by 2050.

Still, the commitment of these seven industrialized nations isn’t the only thing that needs to happen in order to prevent a 2°C rise in temperature and the catastrophic effects of climate change that scientists say will come along with it. Combined, the United States, France, Canada, Germany, Japan, and Great Britain emit roughly the same amount of carbon per year as China does, according to data from the World Bank. That’s why, regardless of the G7’s commitment, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in China and India — another major emitter — will be critical to combatting climate change.

And while Germany, France — which is hosting the UN summit later this year — and the United States are hardening their climate agendas, Japan and Canada were seen as potential holdouts leading up to the G7 agreement. Canada is heavily investing in developing its oil and gas exports, including through the development of tar sands, one of the world’s most carbon-intensive fossil fuels. Japan has increased its use of coal-fired power plants, particularly since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and is in the process of exporting its coal plant technology into Asia’s developing nations.

In its 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 will also increase 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.”

The final agreement offered “support” for 40 to 70 percent reductions by 2050, compared to 2010 levels. The year 2010 might represent a kind of compromise in the group. The E.U. uses 1990 as its baseline year, but in previous goals announced by Japan, that country used 2013 as a baseline.