Environmentalists are up in arms over apparent slack added to the Group of Seven's energy and environmental goals, after ministers decided that the 'war in Ukraine and its effects on oil and gas' warrant breaking what are supposed to be 'firm commitments' that climate advocates say are necessary to limit global warming.
Most notably, the ministers left the door open to new investment in natural gas and ongoing use of fossil fuels.
The G7 ministers also concluded their conclave on Sunday without setting a deadline for halting new coal investments, though they did pinky-swear to 'work toward' cleaning emissions from power generation and reducing vehicle emissions by 2035.
"It falls short of being the clarion call to action that was needed," said Alden Meyer, a senior associate at climate change think tank E3G during a Twitter Spaces conversation, adding that the G7 undermines its global authority "every time they allow carve-outs on issues like international fossil fuel finance."
The G7, the seven most developed countries, consider themselves stewards of the global effort to reduce greenhouse glasses - and their communique 'sets the tone for negotiations around energy and climate among the Group of 20 countries and at the UN climate summit — COP28 — in Dubai in November,' Bloomberg reports.
The new statement seemed to weaken at least one previous commitment, climate activists said. At last year’s meeting, the group’s promise was specific: to halt “new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022, except in limited circumstances clearly defined by each country that are consistent with a 1.5°C warming limit.”
But now, with the war in Ukraine and its effects on oil and gas supplies stretching into a second year, the group said “investment in the gas sector can be appropriate to help address potential market shortfalls,” as long as they’re “implemented in a manner consistent with our climate objectives and without creating lock-in effects.” -Bloomberg
French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher pushed back at critics, saying that the new language was actually more strict than what was originally envisioned, and that it "implicitly means that we cannot invest in the exploration of new gas capacity."
She also told reporters on Saturday that while the highlight of this year's negotiations was an agreement to phase out 'unabated' fossil fuels more rapidly, the group "could not reach an agreement on exiting coal by a specific date."
The final language was said to have been crafted to appease Japan, which hosted the meeting, as well as Germany's Deputy Energy Minister Patrick Graichen, which called the group's position "carefully balanced."
That said, the G7 meeting did result in several commitments - including a plan to boost solar capacity by more than 1,000 gigawatts, and offshore wind generation to 150 gigawatts across member nations by the end of the decade, a move which would triple solar power and increase offshore wind capacity seven-fold.
"The G-7 are confirming that solar and wind are in line for takeoff," said Dave Jones, head of data insights at energy think tank Ember said in the same Twitter Spaces, adding that the commitments show "very clearly that wind and solar are the biggest and cheapest tools in the toolbox to reduce emissions this decade."
The group also acknowledged, but did nothing about, a plan to collectively cut vehicle emissions by at least 50% by 2035.