“The G7 has not been a strong, effective leader on climate change, measured in part by its members’ carbon dioxide emissions and their investments in fossil fuels far surpassing their investments in renewables,” reveals a recent analytical study by the G7 Research Group. “G7 leaders are still not treating anthropogenic climate change like the existential emergency it is.” For the most part, the G7 climate performance has been insufficient and ineffective. In short, mediocre.
Mediocre Climate Performance
Representing 10% of the world’s population but responsible for nearly 25% of global emissions, the G7 countries are among the most polluting in the world.
Since 1985, the G7 has made “319 binding climate commitments” with 51 of those coming since 2015. While commitments are easy to make, compliance is quite another matter. The lack of political will of G7 leaders is most notable when it comes to fossil fuel investments and the continuing support for oil and coal subsidies.
A new report, Cleaning Up Their Act?, exposes the mediocre performance of G7 nations since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, more specifically with respect to their building-back-better policies and their impact on climate action.
- G7 nations have been pumping more money into fossil fuels than clean energy between January 2020 and March 2021, despite pledges to “build back better”.
- Coal, oil and gas received US$189 billion in support, compared to $147 billion for clean forms of energy, since the start of the pandemic.
- More than 8 in every 10 dollars committed to fossil fuels came with no ‘green strings’ attached: they benefited the dirtiest sectors with no requirements for reducing pollution.
- Only 1 in every 10 dollars committed to the Covid-19 response benefited the ‘cleanest’ energies measures, like renewables or energy efficiency.
- As the UK prepares to host the G7 Summit, a new report reveals how G7 nations have – so far – missed major opportunities to green their response to Covid-19. The analysis finds that G7 countries’ energy-intensive investments since the start of the pandemic are at odds with the G7’s own net-zero targets, and with the steep decline in emissions needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Clearing Up Your Act? has three recommendations for G7 leaders:
- Adopt a ‘do-no-harm’ principle by ending any support to the production of fossil fuels and by attaching significant ‘green strings’ to any remaining support to fossil fuel intensive sectors.
- Dedicate a minimum of 40 per cent of total Covid-19 recovery spending to green policies and measures (the current figure is 22%, according to the Global Recovery Observatory).
- Enable a green recovery for all by continuing to ease the debt burden faced by a rising number of low- and middle-income countries, by doubling climate finance pledges, ending overseas finance to fossil fuels, and by using the G7’s influence on multilateral development banks to align their activities with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Covid crisis will pale in comparison to climate crisis
According to research from Oxfam and the Swiss Re Institute, G7 countries will lose 8.5% of their GDP—equivalent to $5 trillion per year—by 2050 if temperatures continue to rise as they are sure to do based on current climate pledges and policies around the world. Although the human and economic damage from COVID are huge, these will pale in comparison to the catastrophic impact of a looming climate crisis. “The research forecasts economic losses from the climate crisis by 2050 would be roughly equivalent to enduring a similar crisis to the pandemic twice a year,” reports The Guardian.
“The next 10 years are absolutely crucial and that’s why COP26 is so important. The G7 is an important milestone, a staging post to COP26”. — Fiona Harvey, podcast The Guardian
The most important discussion at this year’s G7 summit will be the question of global heating. The next 10 years are the world’s last chance to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to less than 2ºC hotter then pre-industrial times. And G7 leaders have one last chance to match their big promises with bold climate action in the lead-up to COP26 scheduled in November in Glasgow.
Canada – the climate bad boy of the G7 group
Leading the G7 in mediocrity and climate unambition, Canada’s per capita emissions are among the highest in the world—about 3 times the global average—and still rising. Canadians produce 15 tonnes of CO² per capita while the world average is 5 tonnes per capita. With only 0.49% of the world’s population, Canada’s share of global emissions stands at 1.58%.
With Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister, emissions have risen by 21% over 1990 levels. The chart below shows that every country has lowered its emissions, except Canada.
Canada has now committed to a new 2030 Paris target of 40-45% emissions reduction from 2005 levels but has missed all its past climate targets. The continuing expansion of the fossil fuel industry does not bode well for this latest target either.
Canada’s climate story is best defined this way: 30 years, 9 climate targets, ZERO success.
The 2020s are crucial for the climate. As the leaders of the G7 convene for this year’s summit, the largest challenge is matching bold promises to concrete actions. This G7 must set the tone with true leadership, not just the mediocre performance of it.
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