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  • Writer's pictureScience & Environment

World Leaders Unite at G7 to Combat Climate Change

Updated: Feb 11

World Leaders' Climate Change Plan: Bold and Decisive or Weak and Hollow?

By Georgie Burns and Nilou Nezhad

G7 Summit Session, Hiroshima by Kim Yong Wii, photo courtesy of Republic of Korea via Flikr

Over the weekend of 19-21st May, the G7 summit took place in Hiroshima, Japan, where the leaders of the seven wealthiest democracies convened once more. However, this year, eight more countries were offered a seat at the table, making this coalition the first G7 summit to have members from around the world. A major topic of discussion at the Summit? The crucial issue of climate change.

At last year's Summit, the G7 leaders pledged to "protect our planet by supporting a green revolution that creates jobs, cuts emissions and seeks to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees", to keep to the Paris Agreement (signed in 2015). Reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, and ensuring energy security were also committed to, following UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's calls for bold and decisive steps towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

So, what bold and decisive steps were established this year? The short answer is not that many.

Instead, key measures introduced in recent years have been reiterated, although the new members committing to the goals will create a much larger impact.

A pivotal measure for G7 climate policies is the pledge to phase out coal power and increase renewable energy. The leaders promised to "rapidly scale-up technologies and policies that further accelerate the transition away from unabated coal capacity" in 2021. However, the fulfilment of these goals is varied, with the UK postponing the closure of two coal-burning power plants in January until 2024. Furthermore, there was pushback on setting a deadline for ending coal-powered electricity, with countries only committing to 'accelerating the phase out' in last month's meeting.

Amid the G7 assembly on climate change, the leaders who participated in the meeting made a promise to secure at least 30% of land and oceans by the year 2030 in an exertion to handle the issue of biodiversity misfortune. The pledge demonstrates a collective commitment from some of the world's most influential countries to protect these natural habitats and helps maintain the delicate balance of the planet's ecosystems, which ultimately enhances biodiversity and mitigates the adverse effects of climate change.

The leaders also promised to "globally advance and promote a green transformation, working together to realise the transformation of our economies to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest”. The need to mobilise finance for clean energy transitions was also highlighted, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Their clean energy plan, outlined in their statement, follows a much-needed blueprint based on finance, cooperation and commitment.

Climate activists have welcomed these pledges. However, the possibility of this becoming a hollow statement lingers. The G7 members have continually fallen short of keeping their promise to give developing nations $100 billion annually in climate finances since the agreements beginnings in 2020. This failure became symbolic of the wealthy G7 countries' inability to deliver in the face of our climate's growing needs. Worse still, this amount only scrapes the surface of what will be needed to achieve these crucial climate goals.

To reach the Paris Agreement targets, the International Energy Agency has been encouraging, unsuccessfully, an urgent halt to investment in new fossil fuel projects since its creation. There is hope that COP28 (in November) will be more successful in convincing the world that comprehensive global action will take place in time. Both to meet the pledges of the world's wealthiest countries and also stop irreversible damage to our climate.


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