G7 leaders gathered in Hiroshima in 2023, a site wherein anti-war symbolism was abundant and palpable. The choice of location, in addition to being the hometown of Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida, was a clear signalling of opposition to Russia’s war against Ukraine. Nevertheless, the G7 summit lacked substantive action to tackle one of the main underlying drivers of this war: fossil fuels.
G7 leaders stated their commitment to “accelerate” the phase out of fossil fuels, but didn’t walk the talk: they promoted fossil gas expansion under the guise of being “appropriate” for the times. Self-exposing a glaring disconnect from the stark realities of our climate crisis, the communique represented a disturbing testament to the influence of vested interests and a refusal to acknowledge the urgent need for a rapid transition out of a fossil fuel-dependent global economic system.
Unfortunately, the list of inconsistencies and loopholes continues even further: the promotion of unproven technologies like ammonia and hydrogen co-firing, carbon capture and storage (CCS), the lack of a hard phaseout of unabated coal, and persistent ambiguity surrounding climate finance for a just renewable energy transition all constituted disappointing elements of the summit’s outcomes.
Official statements released by the G7 on May 19 on the war in Ukraine and its Green Energy Economy Action Plan conveyed their “unwavering support for those impacted by Russia’s invasion”, and their ““unwavering commitment to the Paris Agreement” respectively.
The negotiations as a whole were clouded by concerns around reducing dependency on Russia, and as a result, energy security and combating climate change were largely framed in this context.
The final communiqué claims public investment into the gas sector to be “an appropriate short term means of accelerating the phase-out of “dependency on Russia” – “if implemented in a manner that is consistent with our climate objectives”.
There is no expansion of fossil fuels that is compatible with climate objectives. As our partner Svitlana Romanko, Ukrainian activist from climate justice group Razom We Stand said, “If the G7 countries want to ensure global energy security and peace, they have no choice but to end our dependence on fossil fuels.”
Phasing out “dependency on Russia ” isn’t enough. To address the linked crisis impacting communities all over the world – the cost of living crisis – driven by rising fossil fuel prices – , the worsening impacts of climate change, and the threat of nuclear proliferation – we need to phase out dependency on fossil fuels, full stop. After all, fossil fuels drive conflicts around the world, not only against Ukraine.
As long as we are dependent on fossil fuels, our geopolitical, economic, and energy security will remain at the behest of unpredictable developments. Japan condemns the war in Ukraine, but continues to fund Putin’s war machine by buying Russian gas. Meanwhile, G7 nations, including Germany, France, the UK ,the US and Canada have dashed for gas across Asia and Africa.
Fossil gas is a trojan horse: the industry’s last ditch attempt to cash in before the inevitable transition to clean, affordable, accessible renewables. While communities across the world are dealing with ever-worsening climate impacts, G7 governments are adding fuel to the crisis. An Oil Change International briefing shows that 61% of LNG export terminal capacity built in the last decade had international public finance from the G7.
From the onset of Russia’s invasion and resulting Western sanctions, the fossil fuel industry quickly co-opted the situation and turned into a profit making opportunity: and they have sustained record-breaking profits as a result.
Instead of replacing one source of fossil fuels with another, G7 countries need to invest in rapid deployment of decentralized, renewable energy, with an RE target of 1.5 terawatt every year from 2030 onwards.
G7 leaders have let down their constituents on the frontlines who took actions across the world calling on their highest representatives to act in their interests. With over 50 actions in more than 20 countries, the message from civil society was clear: we expect leadership. And that call has not changed.
The G7 have let us down, but the people remain standing up to fight for the action we need. Watch this space.