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Comprehensive Copious Climate Contributions at Cornwall

John Kirton and Brittaney Warren, G7 Research Group
June 14, 2021 (corrected from June 12, 2021)

On the evening of June 12, before G7 leaders left the beach at Cornwall after their party on the second day of their summit, the British presidency provided an overview of what they would produce the next day on their most important challenge — stopping the climate and biodiversity crises. As Sir David Attenborough has accurately said, the decisions G7 members make on these subjects this decade are the most important in human history.

The British overview contained a long, comprehensive list, specifying more extensive and ambitious action than G7 leaders have promised at, and produced after, any G7 summit in the past. But whether it was big and bold enough to meet the current climate emergency is a question that can only be confidently answered when the promises proclaimed in the host's press release are converted into commitments that bind all members, when the G7 leaders' communiqué appear at the end of their summit.

The press release promises were as follows:

  1. Infrastructure investment through a "Build Back Better for the World" (B3W) program, for green economic growth, from giving developing countries more, better, faster, high-quality financing for railways, wind farms, renewable energy and sustainable technology, and doing so before the 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) Summit in November.
  2. Increased international climate finance.
  3. A £500 million five-year Blue Planet Fund to protect and enhance oceans and marine biodiversity from unsustainable fishing, marine pollution and threats to coastal ecosystems, mangroves and coral reefs.
  4. A Nature Compact to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, including conserving or protecting at least 30% of land and oceans globally before 2030.
  5. Emissions reduction by almost half from 2010 levels by 2030.
  6. End of unabated coal as soon as possible.
  7. End of almost all direct government support for the overseas fossil fuel energy sector.
  8. Phase-out of petrol and diesel cars.

These advances are highly promising in many ways. They started with assisting the economic foundation in developing countries, where most of the sources of carbon pollution would soon arise and where most of the natural carbon sinks already lived. They put nature next, in priority place for the first time, showing they would finally fulfil the promise made at the G7 Houston Summit in 1990 to solve the climate crisis using "all sources and sinks." They directly addressed the critical source of coal, and promised to end it at home and its financing abroad as soon as possible. Canada, the G7 pioneer in phasing out thermal coal at home, had announced on June 11 that no new or expanded coal mines would likely be approved within Canada ever again.

Further optimism arose from the high match between these leaders' anticipated advances and the commitments their environment ministers had already agreed at the historically high performing meeting on May 20-21.

All of the eight commitments above either partially or fully match with a preceding environment ministers' commitment (see Appendix A). The ones with a full match were on increasing international climate financing, to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, to reduce emissions by almost half from 2010 by 2030, and to end direct government support for the overseas fossil fuel energy sector. Those that somewhat match were the ones on green infrastructure ("building backing better for the world"), the Blue Planet Fund and protecting oceans by 2030, and on emissions from vehicles.

There is good reason to believe that these promises will be well complied with. The G7's commitments on the environment, including oceans and biodiversity average 81%, while those on climate finance (n = 4) and clean transportation (n = 2) average 78% each.

Its commitment (n = 1) on phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies only averaged 67%. And its compliance overall with all climate change commitments is 74%, slightly below the G7's overall average of 75% across all subjects. Yet the mood at the summit and the strong language of "ending unabated coal" in the ministerial meeting and in the press release mirrors the call from the International Energy Agency (IEA), an institution long supported and respected by G7 members and that they tend to follow, which states that to meet global climate goals unabated coal must be phased out by 2040.

Conclusion

Yet some critical gaps remain. This importantly includes on environmental justice and respecting Indigenous land rights, critical components for meeting biodiversity and climate goals, and both reflected in the G7 environment ministers' May communiqué. Also missing from the leaders press briefing are adaptation, resilience and disaster risk reduction measures, preferably those that centre nature-based solutions and its co-benefits, not least of which include protecting human health. Lastly, the G7's commitment to an unabated coal phase-out, includes a critical caveat that coal can continue with the use of carbon, capture, storage and utilization (CCSU) technology. Although, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advises that with so much carbon already in the atmosphere much will need to be removed, CCSU technology is expensive and not yet scaleable, and not comparable to the natural technology perfected over billions of years that nature provides as irreplaceable carbon sinks.

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Appendix A: Press Release Commitments Matched with 2021 Environment Ministers' Commitments

  1. Infrastructure investment through a "Build Back Better for the World" (B3W) programme, for green economic growth from giving developing countries more, better, faster high quality financing for railways, wind farm, renewable energy and sustainable technology, before the UN COP26 Summit in November.

2021-68: We will implement a range of measures to encourage and empower citizens, business, communities and regions to decarbonise, including supporting the development of local strategies and plans, encouraging investments for the implementation of model projects for low carbon urban infrastructure, encouraging behavioural change, utilising information systems to promote the transparency of local actions and achievements, and disseminating good practices of concrete actions.

2021-89: We commit to developing strategies and actions that enhance our focus on the security of innovative, clean, safe, and sustainable energy technologies. This includes resilience in the face of cyber security threats, the system integration of variable renewable energy, energy storage, flexible power plants, hydrogen, as well as demand side management, smart grids, and related infrastructure including the accommodation of sustainable biofuels and hydrogen.

  1. Increased international climate finance.

2021-54: We, the G7, reaffirm our commitment to the collective developed country goal of jointly mobilising US$100 billion annually through to 2025, from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral and in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation.

2021-55: We underline G7 commitments to further strengthen the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as an effective tool in implementing the Paris Agreement.

2021-56: We underline the urgent need to scale up efforts to mobilise the private sector if we are to achieve a global green recovery and net zero emissions by 2050, recognising the critical role that innovative financing vehicles, bilateral and multilateral finance institutions, blended finance, policies, risk pools and enabling environments play in this regard.

2021-57: As part of our efforts towards this objective, we commit to making official finance flows consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement

  1. A 500 million five-year Blue Planet Fund to protect and enhance oceans and marine biodiversity from unsustainable fishing, marine pollution and threats to coastal ecosystems, mangroves, coral reefs.

2021-167: Building on the outcomes of the Canadian and other G7 Presidencies, including the Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities, we commit to support the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030) and work towards its goals, which include the global ocean being clean, healthy and resilient, productive, safe, predicted, accessible and inspiring and engaging.

2021-173: [Recognising that marine litter continues to pollute the ocean worldwide, has adverse impacts on marine life through ingestion and entanglement, as well as damaging habitats and people's livelihoods, and with possible impacts on food safety and human health,] we are determine to accelerate action to tackle sources of marine litter, building on national, regional and global efforts, noting the example of the G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter, the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision, and the G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter and the Ocean Plastics Charter as appropriate.

  1. A Nature Compact to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, including conserving or protecting at least 30% of land and oceans globally before 2030.

2021-10: We will help set the world on a nature positive and climate-resilient pathway to bend the curve of biodiversity loss by 2030 and to keep a limit of 1.5°C temperature rise within reach by making our 2030 ambitions consistent with the aim of achieving net zero emissions as soon as possible and by 2050 at the latest.

  1. Reduce emissions by almost half from 2010 levels by 2030.

2021-41: We [highlight with deep concern the findings from the IPCC Special Report 2018, and] recognise the need to reduce the global level of annual GHG emissions to 25–30 Gt of carbon dioxide equivalent or lower by 2030 to put the world on track to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in order to reduce the risk of catastrophic consequences of climate change.

  1. End unabated coal as soon as possible.

2021-76: Recognising that coal power generation is the single biggest cause of global temperature increases, we commit now to rapidly scale-up technologies and policies that further accelerate the transition away from unabated coal capacity and to an overwhelmingly decarbonised power system in the 2030s, consistent with our 2030 NDCs [nationally determined contributions] and net zero commitments.

  1. End almost all direct government support for the overseas fossil fuel energy sector.

2021-81: In this context, we will phase out new direct government support for carbon intensive international fossil fuel energy, except in limited circumstances at the discretion of each country, in a manner that is consistent with an ambitious, clearly defined pathway towards climate neutrality in order to keep 1.5°C within reach, in line with the long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement and best available science.

  1. Phase out petrol and diesel cars.

2021-93: In this regard, and as part of this effort, we welcome and support the Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council

2021-94: [We] … will work with other global partners to accelerate the deployment of zero emission vehicles for passengers and freight, including exploring ways to support developing countries in making the transition.

2021-95: Furthermore, we also need to promote decarbonising the entire life cycle of vehicles.

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