G7 leaders in discussion during summit over June 7 and 8 in Elmau, Germany. Photo credit: Palazzo Chigi/Flickr

G7 leaders have agreed to phase out coal, oil and gas by the end of this century.

At the summit in Elmau in Germany’s picturesque south, leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US agreed to decarbonise the economy.

Three key elements of their agreement on decarbonisation are:

  1. The global economy needs to bring greenhouse gases to zero over the course of this century.

This is significant because of the distinction that decarbonisation should be realised not “until the end of the century”, but “over the course of the century”.

Now the question is: When exactly in this century?

  1. G7 leaders will advocate for a reduction of about two thirds of global emissions by 2050 (based on 2010 levels).
  2. They are committed to transforming their own countries’ energy sectors until 2050 as an important contribution to these goals.

Think Tank Germanwatch says this third commitment is the most important outcome of the summit but leaves a bit to be desired.

“The language could have been stronger and reflects compromises with those opposed to strong commitments, particularly Japan and Canada,” a Germanwatch press release states.

“Nonetheless, this is the announcement of an energy transition in all G7 countries. The language on “energy sectors” makes it clear that this will cover not only the power sector, but transport and buildings as well.”

The G7 leaders also agreed to help developing countries prepare for and insure themselves against climate change consequences.

And they reiterated a previous commitment to mobilise US $100 billion annually by 2020 from industrial countries to support climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

However, Germanwatch said the language on this commitment was weak and did not explain how the money would be raised by 2020. France and Germany pushed for stronger language, but the US, Japan and Canada pushed back.

Chief executive of European non-profit organization E3G Nick Mabey said the outcome of this week’s G7 summit signalled a shift in climate politics.

“By agreeing to decarbonise the global economy inside a strong system of rules they have set a benchmark for emerging economies such as China to match,” Mr Mabey said.

“The recommitment to meeting financial pledges and providing insurance to the most climate vulnerable countries also aims to build bridges with poorer countries.

“G7 leaders have finally understood that the stakes are high for the Paris talks. Either we pay the costs of continually rising climate risks or take decisive action to drive trillions of dollars of clean investment. Paris is fast becoming the biggest political event of 2015.”

ECG senior policy advisor Chris Littlecott said German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande had successfully faced down obstructionism from Canada and Japan and secured agreement on climate ambition.

“Most importantly, Japan’s domestic plans for coal expansion have left it isolated amongst its G7 peers,“ Mr Littlecott said.

“Its support for international coal finance is no longer tenable as the tide turns against coal. This fight will now be taken to the OECD next month where we expect progress on phasing out coal.”

We Mean Business chief executive Nigel Topping said decarbonisation of the global economy was what businesses and investors needed to act on climate change.

“We know that over the next 15 years more than US$90 trillion will be invested in infrastructure in cities, land-use and energy,” Mr Topping said.

“A clear long-term decarbonisation objective in the Paris agreement, such as net-zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of the century will shift this towards low-carbon investment and avoid unmanageable climate risk.

“We call on all countries joining the Paris climate agreement to develop long-term strategies which show their own path towards the low-carbon economy.”

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  1. By the end of the century? Now THAT’S a brave move; given that all the negotiators will be long dead and their grandchildren left scrabbling to survive in a drastically changed climate.

    Given that much of the fossil fuel supply will have phased itself out by then.

    Given that pursuing the business-as-usual model may well phase out humanity by the end of the century.

    Well, at least they were well fêted in Paris, on the public expense account.