Climate Crisis and the Environment

Climate Change Talks At G7 Summit

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, sits for a group photograph with all the G7 leaders at the Eden Project
Rian Patel

Out of overarching grey clouds was born a beautiful blue sky, and warm, dazzling sunshine, as the G7 summit progressed from 11 – 13 June. The first face-to-face diplomatic meeting that the Group of 7 (G7) have had in nearly two years took place at Carbis Bay in Cornwall.

World leaders were able to discuss thoughts and feelings with their footprints in the sand. They could engage in big and small talks as gentle, turquoise waves crashed against the shore. With a setting so idyllic, it is a shame their plates were so full. And not just with lobster. Coronavirus, China, the Northern Ireland Protocol, and climate change were all topics of discussion hotted up by the media. Yet, how fruitful were the talks on climate change in this paradise?

To kick things off, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted a controversial picture of his arrival as host in Cornwall, by jet plane from London. With an array of fist and elbow bumps, he welcomed the Presidents of the USA and France, the Prime Ministers of Japan, Italy and Canada, Chancellor of Germany, and the European Commission and Council Presidents.

The G7 is a club of countries that have advanced economies, with ~40% of the world’s GDP, 10% of the world’s population, and ~25% of the world’s CO2 emissions—not including the EU. It is the core of what is defined as the West. Their discussions and decisions hold appropriate gravitas. That is, however, when decisions are made.

Climate change is as much a political challenge as it is a technological one

Greeted by some of the media was a great assortment of climate protestors. With placards and passion, they were scattered across the seas and sand, with bunting draping the settlements of Cornwall. Extinction Rebellion, Oxfam, and many more groups and individuals, all displayed their desire for faster and greater action on the climate crisis.

A campaigner inside the conference meeting room was Sir David Attenborough, via a pre-recorded video, where he pleaded his case that climate change is as much a political challenge as it is a technological one. Ahead of the summit he spoke about how these advanced economies would make history’s most important decisions this decade.

Sir David’s sentiment was matched by Prince Charles’, where they both spoke about how together the world has mobilised so urgently against coronavirus; this quick, scientific, and political collaboration should be carried forward to the climate change crisis too. Prior to his arrival with The Queen at the G7 summit, Prince Charles had a meeting with John Kerry, the first U.S. Presidential Envoy for Climate. This was together with numerous chief executives in the private sector, who were invited to address the world leaders at the summit too.

Coal is the most carbon intensive energy source and causes the most deaths

The private sector and numerous industries from aviation to waste management, all have important work to carry out to help achieve international targets for climate change. The aim was set to keep global temperature rise below 2 oC, preferably 1.5 oC, both of which the world is set to overshoot. The Prince of Wales has set up forums for these industries as a part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative, where he wishes sustainability to become the heart of the private sector.

The most headlined climate-related agreement, perhaps, was that the G7 will no longer take an interest in coal as a source of power generation. Coal is the most carbon-intensive energy source (highest emissions per unit of power). It is also the causes the most deaths (by air pollution and accidents) out of all other sources of power generation. Removing it for power generation in the G7 nations is welcome. However, plants with technologies such as carbon capture, which reduce CO2 emissions into the air, may continue to operate.

They will also seek to end coal generation in developing countries by ending funding. Instead, the G7 are to offer up to £2 billion a year to stop use of coal in countries where energy and grid infrastructure may still be developing and improving. Although, the International Energy Agency (IEA) would say that this is not going far enough.

The IEA’s flagship report released last month, recommended that there should not only be no new coal mines, but also no oil and gas field approvals issued from this year. Perhaps noteworthy too is that the world’s largest emitter and biggest coal user, China, is not a part of the G7, though this mobilisation against coal for power may put pressure on them to take faster action too.

In addition to this, the G7 plan to support the target of conserving/protecting at least 30% of the world’s land and at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, which aim to stop or reverse biodiversity loss.

Alongside reaffirmations and commitments to existing targets, Prime Minister Johnson announced £430 million to improve education for children in developing nations, with priority to girls’ education. Girls’ education has also been linked to benefitting the fight against climate change. More girls and young women developing climate understanding in communities, and being able to study further in policy, science and engineering roles would be hugely beneficial in achieving net-zero carbon emissions across the globe.

A big issue with the G7 Summit was the inability to reach the $100 billion target of climate funding. This is to be given by developed countries to support developing countries to mobilise to net-zero emissions. This figure, amounted from public and private sources, should have been reached last year so that it could be supplied annually through to 2025.This was set out in the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015, and the commitment was made in 2009–10.

It is a symbol of trust internationally, and imperative to aid decarbonisation globally. The pandemic has increased difficulty in delivering this, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) latest estimate has the total funding amount at $78.9 billion in 2018.

The biggest win at this conference was that America was committed again to its Western allies and the Paris Agreement

Alok Sharma, President of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, welcomed the announcements by Germany and Canada to increase their funding commitment by €6 billion and CAN$5.3 billion per year by 2025 respectively, on the last day of the G7 Summit. This builds on the U.S. announcement at Joe Biden’s Earth Day Summit in April, to double its public finance for developing countries by 2024. Although, there is the notion that the $100 billion figure should not be a target but a threshold to be overcome, and there is still work to be done on achieving this.

For all the protestors, heightened security, and road blockages across Cornwall – has the summit been worth it, from a climate change point of view? The announcement on intent to eliminate coal for power, and protection/conservation for both land and seas are steps in the right direction. However, there is always more to be done with the climate change emergency.

The biggest win at this conference was that America was committed again to its Western allies and the Paris Agreement, as was President Biden, leaving the skeptical Trump years in the past. This G7 summit was just a stepping-stone to COP26, again to be hosted by the UK, in Glasgow in November 2021. Being the first COP in a five-year cycle since the Paris Agreement, its importance will be immense for the fight against climate change.

Rian Patel

Featured Photo by Number 10 from Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In article Instagram post from G7. No changes were made to this post.

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