By Tine Langkamp, Senior Germany Organizer and Campaigner and Eri Watanabe, Senior Japan Finance Campaigner
On May 27th, The G7 climate, energy and environment ministers issued a communique committing to end public finance for fossil fuels by the end of this year. This sounds like a big deal, and it could be, but we have a lot of work to do in holding our leaders accountable. G7 meetings are notorious for making bold promises only to break them. Often world leaders’ vision just isn’t backed by lawmakers at home.
Approximately half of the world population live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change. We need public finance to fund a transition that reflects that reality, but G7 nations continue meandering on the 100bn climate finance goal established under the Paris Agreement. The high level G7 Summit, which will gather heads of state from the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy, is due to be held in Germany from 26th to 28th of June. If the G7 is serious about its resolve to fight climate change, they need to pay their climate debt and mobilise trillions per year by 2030 with 50% for adaptation to the climate crisis.
Climate change was one of the key themes at the 2021 summit. However, commitments were sadly and predictably underwhelming. In last year’s final statement, they said: “We reaffirm the collective developed countries goal to jointly mobilise $100bn/year from public and private sources, through to 2025.” This goal was not met, and the biggest emitter of Europe, Germany, is even planning to reduce its yearly contribution to international climate finance that is desperately needed to support developing countries to adapt to the climate crisis they have caused in the first place.
Last year, there was talk about how the G7 will end the funding of new coal generation in developing countries and offer up to £2bn ($2.8bn) to stop using the fuel. Japan, the world’s second-largest provider of public finance for fossil fuels, is moving forward with support for two new coal projects in Indonesia and Bangladesh. Furthermore, Japan has not committed to a full coal phase-out domestically and is still constructing new coal power plants while heavily relying on unproven CCUS and ammonia/hydrogen co-firing technologies for achieving its net-zero goal. In addition, Japan is seeking to export such technologies and fossil gas infrastructure to Southeast Asian countries as “transition” measures.
At the same time, Germany, which holds the G7 presidency this year, has not fully broken up with coal either. In an attempt to replace Russian coal imports and despite the plan to phase out of the fuell by 2030, Germany looks to import more so-called blood coal from Colombia. The extraction of coal in Colombia is inextricably linked with human rights violations, environmental damages and the trampling of rights and persecution of indigenous communities. In Germany itself, entire villages and their communities are still threatened by growing open pit mines operated by coal giant RWE. What is more, Germany invests heavily in new fossil gas infrastructure and looks for new fracked gas sources from Qatar, Senegal, or the US to replace Russian fuels. For Germany, this would mean a fossil lock-in for decades, instead of pouring resources into a just transition to 100% renewable energy.
The G7 needs to listen to the science and wake up to the reality that fossil gas is not a transition fuel. This will not achieve what science has stated as a possible path, and we, the people, will not buy giving with one hand and taking with the other. Canceling coal is great and needs to happen fast, but cannot be replaced by giant gas infrastructure. The G7 nations produce about a quarter of the world’s climate pollution. Here are their responsibilities: Cutting the subsidies and public money flowing into fossil fuels, investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and funding the transition, mitigation, and adaptation of the Global South.
Last month’s G7 energy and environment ministers pledge to end public funding for fossil fuel projects overseas may look good, but there are massive loopholes with existing projects and domestic ones. Moreover, despite the pledge, Japan is still pursuing new upstream developments abroad, which casts a huge question mark if the country is serious about climate action.
We know world leaders are navigating a lot with the specter of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And it’s clear that fossil fuels have made hard times worse. But we need to be driving towards a just transition with every big intervention.
The G7 recently published this statement on the war, “We will expedite our efforts to reduce and end reliance on Russian energy supplies as quickly as possible, building on G7 commitments to phase out or ban imports of Russian coal and oil. We will accelerate the energy transition and enhance energy efficiency in the context of the accelerated phasing out of our dependency on Russian energy, in accordance with our climate objectives and energy security imperatives, thereby steadily reducing foreign currency flows into Russia and restricting the financial means available to fund Russia’s war machinery.”
This is a good statement, but we implore you not to lose sight of the opportunity to use the momentum of phasing out Russian fossil fuels to phase out all fossil fuels – and to walk your talk with concrete action. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has put it, “The war in Ukraine and its immediate effects on energy prices is yet another wake-up call. We must end fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the renewable energy transition, before we incinerate our only home.”
What we really need to see from the G7 is true North-South solidarity in terms of climate finance, reliable technology transfer, and the means to adapt to the crisis that is worsening every day. To be honest, we don’t believe our leaders will truly meet the moment on their own. Therefore, we will keep organising on the ground and fighting for climate justice. We know that a better world is possible, and with that vision, we move forward in strength and solidarity.