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Environmental groups warn nations risk undermining their green goals by scrambling to secure new sources of natural gas to make up for shortfalls in supplies from Russia.
Ministers from the world’s wealthiest democracies will wrangle over how to keep climate change goals on track as they meet in Berlin on Thursday for talks overshadowed by surging energy costs and fuel supply worries sparked by the war in Ukraine.
Energy, climate and environment ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) countries want to reaffirm a commitment to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and protect biodiversity at the meeting.
They will seek to agree on common targets for the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy that scientists say is urgently needed to curb catastrophic climate change.
Alden Meyer, senior associate at climate think-tank E3G, said tackling climate change was the best and quickest way for countries to achieve energy security.
“Climate impacts are worse than scientists originally predicted and there’s far worse ahead if we don’t cut emissions rapidly,” Meyer said. “Delivering on climate promises really becomes even more vital in this tense geopolitical environment.”
The ministers will consider committing to a phase-out of coal power generation by 2030, according to a draft communique, though sources suggested that opposition from the United States and Japan could derail such a pledge.
Germany’s energy and climate minister said the G7 can lead the way on ending the use of coal, a heavily polluting fossil fuel that is responsible for a large chunk of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“The G-7 … can perhaps take on a certain pioneering role to push forward ending the use of coal for electricity and in decarbonising the transport system,” Robert Habeck said.
Habeck said the issue could be carried forward to the G7 leaders’ summit in Elmau, Germany, next month and then to the meeting of the Group of 20 leading and emerging economies later this year. Getting G20 countries to sign on to the ambitious targets set by some of the most advanced economies will be key, as countries such as China, India and Indonesia remain heavily reliant on coal.
It would be wrong to view efforts countries are making to tackle the current energy crisis, stoked by Russia’s war in Ukraine, as countering efforts to end fossil fuel use, Habeck said.
“What we are seeing at the moment is an acceleration of the ecological transformation,” he said.
Environmental groups have warned countries such as Germany risk undermining their green goals by scrambling to secure new sources of natural gas – including from the United States – to make up for the shortfall in supplies from Russia.
Fossil fuel subsidies
The meeting in Berlin will also seek to reach agreements on boosting financial aid for poor countries to cope with climate change, additional funds for biodiversity, protecting oceans and reducing plastic pollution.
The draft communique, which could change considerably by the time talks conclude on Friday, would also commit G7 countries to have a “net zero electricity sector by 2035” and to start reporting publicly next year on how they are delivering on a past G7 commitment to end “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.
Campaigners urged the ministers of the G7 to make clear commitments that the fallout of the Ukraine war would not derail their climate targets.
“We have a new reality now. The G7 need to respond to that, and they should respond through renewables and not through fossil fuel infrastructure,” said David Ryfisch, climate policy expert at non-profit Germanwatch.
While seeking consensus on an oil embargo on Russia, the European Union is pushing to accelerate the bloc’s pivot to renewable energy while finding fossil fuel alternatives to Russian supplies.
Ahead of the meeting, the B7 group of leading business and industry federations of the G7 states called on the group to back a plan along the lines of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s “climate club” to harmonise standards on emissions and CO2 pricing.
Scholz had suggested the idea to try to avoid trade friction in areas including green tariffs, the development of markets for decarbonised products, carbon pricing, and removal methods.