G7 nations vow to phase out international financing for coal projects
With the United States again pushing for robust climate action, the countries also agreed to adopt emissions-cutting targets that would meet the most ambitious aims of the Paris climate accord.
By Brady Dennis May 21, 2021 washingtonpost.com
Environmental ministers from seven of the world’s most developed economies agreed Friday to ambitious new goals to move their economies from fossil fuels in an effort to slow the warming of the planet.
The outcome of the Group of Seven ministerial meeting — in which nations agreed to limit international financing for coal projects and eventually to end financing for such projects around the world — underscored the return of the United States as a force for global climate action after the country remained on the sidelines under President Donald Trump.
In a communique issued at the conclusion of a two-day meeting, environmental ministers for France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada, Japan and the United States vowed to deliver climate targets that would limit Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. That goal, if met, would satisfy the most aspirational aims of the 2015 Paris agreement. But so far, the world remains far from such a trajectory, despite far-reaching pledges this year from the United States and some other nations.
The group also said it would begin to halt international investments in coal-fired power plants in poorer nations. “We stress that international investments in unabated coal must stop now and commit to take concrete steps towards an absolute end to new direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021,” the document states.
Precisely how G-7 leaders plan to make good on that promise remains to be seen, but the announcement — and the collective call “on other major economies to adopt these commitments” — puts pressure on China, the world’s largest emitter, to follow suit.
“This G-7 announcement leaves China alone as the only significant funder of overseas coal power plants,” Bernice Lee, founding director of the Hoffmann Center for Sustainable Resource Economy, said in a statement Friday. “Beijing has already signaled it is quitting coal-funding in Bangladesh, and I think this will raise further questions over its export finance strategy. Does China really want to be the last one standing for an industry on its last legs?”
The other climate-related promises that nations made Friday included a commitment to safeguard 30 percent of the world’s land and 30 percent of oceans by 2030 in hopes of reversing the loss of wildlife and helping nature to soak up carbon emissions.
“Today’s G-7 statement is a landmark one,” Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence and prolific writer on the natural world, said in a statement. “Countries are not kicking the can down the road any more but are acting on overwhelming scientific evidence that urges us to protect at least 30 percent of the planet by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.”
President Biden is expected to travel next month to meet other G-7 leaders for a summit in England, in which climate is likely to be a central focus, alongside plans to ramp up coronavirus vaccinations around the world and spur an economic recovery from the global pandemic.
Also Friday, Biden met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House to discuss the push toward more-ambitious climate goals.
The G-7′s resolve to act more quickly to combat global warming and to move away from fossil fuel dependence comes days after an eye-opening report from the International Energy Agency that warned that the world’s pathway to net zero emissions is “achievable” but “narrow.”
The report praised the increasing number of countries that have pledged essentially to erase their carbon footprints by mid-century; those pledges now cover about 70 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide, the IEA said. China has pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2060.
But the IEA also warned that in many cases, little tangible action has occurred to back up such promises. Most of them “are not yet underpinned by near-term policies and measures,” the report said. Even if fulfilled, the pledges to date would still fail to cover 22 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide in 2050.
With international leaders set to convene in Glasgow in six months to outline climate measures, the IEA report said, “commitments made to date fall far short of what is required by that pathway.”