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"System change not climate change" is written on a banner at a rally

"System change not climate change" is written on a banner at a rally of the climate action movement Fridays for Future. Demonstrators gathered during the Covid-19 pandemic on October 20, 2020 in Berlin to demand a a green recovery. (Photo: Annette Riedl/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Despite 'Green Recovery' Vows, G7 Nations Spent Billions More on Fossil Fuels Than Renewables Over Past Year

"The recovery policies of some G7 nations threw major lifelines to the oil and gas industry, risking an increase in the production and lock-in of these energy systems for decades."

Julia Conley

Even as officials prepare for the G7 summit where seven of the world's richest nations will reportedly discuss climate action and a "green recovery" from the Covid-19 pandemic, a new report reveals that those same countries poured tens of billions of dollars more into fossil fuels in the last year than they spent supporting renewable energy.

According to the relief agency Tearfund, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the G7 nations invested $189 billion in fossil fuel production and deregulation between January 2020 and March 2021, while committing just $147 billion to developing renewable energy. 

The groups' report, titled "Cleaning Up Their Act?," notes that in most cases, the money invested by the U.S., the U.K., Japan, France, Germany, Italy, and Canada was spent without "green strings," which would have conditioned the spending on fossil fuel companies' commitment to climate action.

"Investments with no 'green strings' attached are highly problematic, as they end up benefiting fossil-fuel intensive activities without requirements for any climate targets or reductions in pollution." —Angela Picciariello, ODI

The countries "missed major opportunities to make their response to Covid-19 greener," the report reads. "More than eight in every ten dollars committed to fossil fuels came with no 'green strings' attached."

"Investments with no 'green strings' attached are highly problematic, as they end up benefiting fossil-fuel intensive activities without requirements for any climate targets or reductions in pollution," said Angela Picciariello, senior research officer at ODI.

Despite promises to "build back better" after the pandemic by U.S. President Joe Biden—who adopted the slogan for his 2020 campaign—and other leaders, the U.S. and Canadian governments rolled back fossil fuel regulations in the last year, including waiving requirements for impact assessments for infrastructure projects, suspending penalties for pollution-causing corporations, and extending deadlines for emissions reporting.  

"The emissions of already-developed reserves of oil, gas and coal alone could bring the world beyond the +1.5°C warming limit set by the Paris Agreement," the report states. "Yet the recovery policies of some G7 nations threw major lifelines to the oil and gas industry, risking an increase in the production and lock-in of these energy systems for decades."

G7 nations particularly invested in transportation systems that run on fossil fuels, spending $115 billion on bailouts for companies including Air France, British Airways, and Honda. More than 80% of the funds were given to the companies without securing commitments to reduce emissions, according to the report. 

"So much for the green recovery," tweeted Nick Taylor, a lecturer at the Political Economy Research Center in London.

The report comes days after G7 leaders announced their plans to discuss significant steps to mitigate the climate crisis at the summit, which begins June 11 in Cornwall, England. 

The officials will reportedly discuss phasing out new direct government support for international fossil fuels, conserving 30% of land by 2030 to boost biodiversity and help absorb carbon emissions, and other measures. 

The G7's actions since the pandemic began, however, have left advocates questioning leaders' commitment to the "green recovery" they have spent the last year promising. 

"While eight out of 11 countries substantially improved the greenness of their plans over the last year, at the time of writing only four (Canada, France, Germany and the U.K.) have developed plans that will cause more environmental good than harm," the report reads. 

A G7 summit where leaders take seriously the need to invest in renewable energy rather than fossil fuels, said ODI, "could also lay groundwork for a successful COP26," which is taking place in November in Scotland. 

"Every day, we witness the worsening consequences of the climate crisis for communities around the world—farmers' crops failing; floods and fires engulfing towns and villages; families facing an uncertain future," said Paul Cook, the head of advocacy at Tearfund. "Choices made now by the G7 countries will either accelerate the transition towards a climate-safe future for all, or jeopardize efforts to date to tackle the climate crisis."


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