G7 Climate Goal Will 'Send Shivers Down the Spine' of Fossil Fuel Industry

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G7 Climate Goal Will 'Send Shivers Down the Spine' of Fossil Fuel Industry

Governments of Canada and Japan reportedly block effort to reach zero emissions

A sign at the People's Climate March in New York City on September 21, 2014. (Photo: Chris Yakimov/cc/flickr)

In an acknowledgement of the severity of the climate crisis, officials from the some of the world's leading economic powers on Monday issued a joint statement calling for a "decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century."

In a communique (pdf) issued on the second and final day of the G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany, leaders from the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Canada, Italy, and Germany reaffirmed the need to limit global warming to 2º Celsius and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 percent of 2010 levels by 2050, which is the amount recommended by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Climate action proponents say the statement sends a strong message to financial institutions as well as to the fossil fuel industry that 'change is coming.'

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While the G7 plan was critiqued for its lack of binding provisions, as well as its dearth of crucial details on how such goals will be achieved, the statement singles out the financial sector for its role in the climate crisis through the subsidization of fossil fuels.

The plan calls for the elimination of "inefficient fossil fuel subsidies," as well as increased investment in renewable energy both domestically and in developing nations, particularly in Africa.

"We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term, including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050, and invite all countries to join us in this endeavor," the communique read.

Ruth Davis, senior associate at E3G who serves as a political advisor to Greenpeace, said the plan will send "shivers down the spines of directors in coal, oil and gas companies."

In a press statement, 350.org executive director May Boeve said: "The G7 is sending a signal that the world must move away from fossil fuels, and investors should take notice. If you’re still holding onto fossil fuel stocks, you’re betting on the past. As today’s announcement makes clear, the future belongs to renewables."

While 350.org notes that decarbonization "should proceed at a faster pace" than the 2050 targets laid out by the G7, even realizing that goal "will require a massive shift of investments away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy."

Further, the G7 pact also reaffirms pledges made in the oft-criticized Copenhagen Accord to mobilize jointly $100 billion, both in public and private investment, for climate finance and "intensify support for vulnerable countries’ own efforts to manage climate change related disaster risk and to build resilience."

At the same time as the G7 meeting, international climate negotiators in Bonn worked to hammer out a draft text ahead of the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, during which world leaders are expected to put forth a binding climate action agreement.

According to reports, negotiations continued to be held up as rich and poor nations remain deeply divided over how to apportion responsibility for emissions cuts.

As Davis notes, despite the shortcomings of the G7 pledge, the statement itself "is a particularly notable result from a political grouping which some think of as a historic anomaly, and whose members often struggle to find big strategic priorities in common."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had reportedly pushed the group to endorse a pledge to reach zero carbon emissions, but sources close to the talks say that the governments of Canada and Japan had blocked that effort.

"Canada and Japan are the most concerned about this one," a source that had seen the draft document told the Canadian Press. "The two of those countries have been the most difficult on every issue on climate. They don’t want any types of targets in there, so I think they are trying to make it as vague as possible at this point."

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