Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"It's time G7 leaders wake up to the hunger their own energy systems are causing to the world's poorest people on the frontline of climate change," said Celine Charveriat of Oxfam International. (Photo: Oxfam International/flickr)

G7's Unrelenting Burning of Fossil Fuels Called 'Weapon of Mass Destruction'

New report by Oxfam International slams G7's disregard for people and planet

Jon Queally

As G7 leaders gather in Germany this weekend, Oxfam International was among the scores of groups and thousands of people in the street in protest on Saturday as they slammed the world's top industrialized nations for continuing to push energy and financial policies that are dooming the planet to climate misery and growing inequality while leading millions of people towards deeper hunger and food insecurity.

"[Coal-fired power stations] increasingly look like weapons of destruction aimed at those who suffer the impacts of changing rainfall patterns as well as of extreme weather events." —Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food

To bolster their critique of the G7, Oxfam has released a new report on the eve of summit—titled 'Let Them Eat Coal' (pdf)—describing the current situation in which the most development nations continue to burn coal, still the world's largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, at unsustainable rates and in a manner that is driving planetary destruction on a massive scale and pushing off investments in the solutions necessary to right humanity's course in the coming years and decades.

According to the report's summary, each existing or new coal power station in the world should be seen "as a weapon of climate destruction – fueling ruinous weather patterns, devastating harvests, driving food price rises and ultimately leaving more people facing hunger. With these climate impacts falling disproportionately on the most vulnerable and least food-secure people, the burning of coal is further exacerbating inequality. Without urgent action, climate change could put back the fight against hunger by several decades."


We Interrupt This Article with an Urgent Message!

Common Dreams is a not-for-profit organization. We fund our news team by pooling together many small contributions from our readers. No advertising. No selling our readers’ information. No reliance on big donations from the 1%. This allows us to maintain the editorial independence that our readers rely on. But this media model only works if enough readers pitch in.
We urgently need your help today.
If you support Common Dreams and you want us to survive, your gift today is critical.
Please give now to our Mid-Year Fundraiser!

Taken as a whole, Oxfam says that if G7 coal plants were a country, it would be the fifth biggest emitter in the world.

Endorsing the report, Professor Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said: "Climate disruptions are already affecting many poor communities in the global South, and coal-fired power stations are contributing, every day, to make this worse. They increasingly look like weapons of destruction aimed at those who suffer the impacts of changing rainfall patterns as well as of extreme weather events."

Equally troubling to the geophysical and climate impacts of coal, warns Oxfam, is the long-term financial impact it is having—and will continue to have—for those in the developing world. With a focus on how the develop world's continued use of coal is negatively affecting the people of Africa, Oxfam says that businesses and governments represented by the G7—which includes the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan—are creating a situation in which the financial costs associated with the damage done by the  ongoing mining and burning of coal far outweigh the aid and assistance money spent on rural development or agriculture across the African continent. 

Using available and trusted climate and financial models, Oxfam estimates that coal emissions fueled by G7-sponsored or financed projects will be responsible for total climate change-related costs in Africa of approximately $43 billion per year by the 2080s and $84 billion per year by the end of the century. Those figures, says the international aid group, represent sixty times what G7 countries give Africa in agricultural and rural development aid and more than three times what G7 countries give Africa in total bilateral aid.

"The G7's coal habit is racking up costs for Africa and other developing regions," said Celine Charveriat, Oxfam International’s director of advocacy and campaigns. "It's time G7 leaders wake up to the hunger their own energy systems are causing to the world's poorest people on the frontline of climate change. The G7 leaders must stop using emissions growth in developing countries as an excuse for inaction and begin leading the world away from fossil fuels by starting with their own addiction to coal."

Invoking the next high-level round of UN climate talks in Paris later this year, Oxfam says the G7 nations must "lead the world in setting out clear plans for a just transition away from coal" and take responsibility for the damage already done.

"Ahead of a new climate deal due to be struck at the end of this year," said Charveria, "G7 leaders can give the global fight against climate change the momentum it needs by shifting away from coal. This will make significant additional cuts in their emissions, create jobs and be a major step towards a safer, sustainable and prosperous future for us all."

On Friday, members of the global climate justice movement cheered after the Norwegian Parliament voted approval for a measure that would see the nation's government pension fund—the largest of its kind in the world—begin to divest its holdings from the coal industry. Though only a start, said campaigners, this latest victory for divestment shows that a large-scale move away from fossil fuels continues to gain steam even as the coal, oil, and gas industries do everything in their power to retain the destructive—yet profitable—status quo.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Trump-Appointed Judge Permanently Blocks Biden's Oil and Gas Leasing Moratorium

Fossil fuel extraction on federal lands and waters has accounted for an estimated 25% of all U.S. carbon emissions since 2005.

Jake Johnson ·

In Landslide 1,108-to-387 Vote, Maine Nurses Reject Effort to Decertify Their Union

"They thought because we were a new union, they could manipulate Maine Med nurses and overturn our 2021 election," said one nurse. "But we just showed them the door."

Jake Johnson ·

Dems Threaten to Subpoena FTI Consulting Over 'Blanket Refusal' to Provide Info on Fossil Fuel Work

"FTI's refusal to cooperate with this congressional inquiry shows that they have something to hide, which will reveal the dangerous ways agencies like theirs have promoted fossil fuel greenwash and misinformation," said the Clean Creatives campaign's leader.

Jessica Corbett ·

Bad Day for DeSantis as 'Stop WOKE Act' Hit With Injunction, Lawsuit

"If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case," a federal judge wrote in blocking part of the controversial law. "But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents."

Brett Wilkins ·

US Judge Says Mar-a-Lago Affidavit 'Can Be Unsealed' With Redactions

"This is going to be a considered, careful process, where everybody's rights, the government's and the media's, will be protected," declared U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo