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G7 agrees to ditch fossil fuels by end of the century

The G7 backs a long-term decarbonisation goal and promises more help for countries vulnerable to climate change as UN talks make slow progress

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(Image by Bundesregierung/Kugler

Leaders of the G7 have agreed for the first time to ditch fossil fuels over the course of the century and promised measures that will help poor countries roll out renewables and adapt to climate change. 

At a summit meeting in southern Germany, a joint statement made today has committed a group of the world’s biggest fully-industrialised economies to a long-term decarbonisation goal that would hasten a decisive shift to renewable technologies by 2050.

Leaders of the US, Germany, Japan, France, the UK, Italy and Canada also backed a global emission reductions target of 40-70% by the middle of this century, but this is an affirmation and isn't binding on the G7.

The G7 also agreed to measures aimed at building trust at UN climate talks, including providing insurance and protection to the most vulnerable countries, accelerating renewable energy access in Africa, as well as a pledge to build climate-related projects into development assistance and investment decisions. 

The meeting of G7 leaders also agreed on the importance of binding rules to underpin the integrity of a climate agreement in Paris later this year. 
 
Observers of international climate talks broadly welcomed the G7 statement, but cautioned that much more detail would be needed on finance. 
 
"This long-term decarbonisation goal will make evident to corporations and financial markets that the most lucrative investments will stem from low-carbon technologies. This target must also be a key element of an ambitious international climate agreement," said Jennifer Morgan, a director at the World Resources Institute. 
 
"More remains to be done—particularly around meeting the US$100 billion goal," Morgan added, referring to the annual sum that rich countries promised would flow each year from 2020 to help vulnerable countries shift away away from fossil fuels and adapt to climate change.
 
Other observers have pointed that many rich countries have 'double-counted' existing development aid as climate finance and that current commitments are barely one-fifth of what has been promised.  

Double-counting
 
Climate Action Network, a coalition of environmental groups, questioned the G7's June 8 statement that the rich world was "“well on our way to meet the US$100 billion goal”
 
It said in its daily ECO newsletter: "Current flows of public and concessional climate finance range from only US$14-17 billion per year...a gap of over US$80 billion per year still has to be closed to meet the annual US$100 billion goal by 2020. ECO doubts that many developing countries would consider the delivery of one fifth of the target as being 'well on our way'."
 
E3G, a consultancy, said the G7 announcement was clearly an attempt to foster goodwill in UN climate talks, which are making slow progress at an interim meeting in the German city of Bonn aimed at smoothing a path to a deal at a climate summit in December.
 
“G7 leaders have finally understood that the stakes are high for the Paris talks," said E3G's chief executive Nick Mabey.
 
Meanwhile, the world’s poorest countries are likely to want much firmer commitments and clarity on how rich countries will raise the annual US$100 billion of finance promised at the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks. 
 
Lost opportunities
 
Commitments to roll out renewable energy at a faster pace are likely to create major economic benefits in those G7 countries that make a big shift away from coal and other fossil fuels, say analysts.
 

A report released on Monday said that the US and EU countries, will, in common with China, secure additional economic benefits from enhanced climate action, while Japan and Canada would miss out on hundreds of thousands of new jobs in sectors such as wind, solar, low carbon vehicles and energy efficiency.

“Japan's paltry offer [in its national climate plan] will create zero additional jobs in the renewable energy sector, reduce the country's fossil fuel import bill by only US$8 billion a year, and save just 1,500 lives annually. That's ten times less than the co-benefits resulting from the more ambitious action plan which civil society organisations are calling for” said the report from the New Climate Institute.  

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