G7 Climate, Energy, and Environment ministers.

Participating ministers pose for a photo during a Minister's Meeting On Climate, Energy, and Environment on April 29, 2024 in Turin, Italy.

(Photo: Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

G7 2035 Coal Phaseout Pledge Called 'Too Little, Too Late' to Match Climate Emergency

"If they are serious and aligned with what the science says is needed to keep 1.5°C within reach, G7 countries must ditch this dinosaur, planet-wrecking fuel no later than 2030," one advocate said.

The Group of Seven Climate, Energy, and Environment Ministerial concluded a meeting in Turin, Italy, on Tuesday with a commitment to phase out "unabated" coal use by 2035.

While the agreement is "unprecedented" for the U.S. and Japan, which had not previously set an expiration date on their burning of the dirtiest fossil fuel, it still does not align with the Paris agreement goal of limiting global heating to 1.5°C.

"The commitment to phase out coal is simply too little, too late. If they are serious and aligned with what the science says is needed to keep 1.5°C within reach, G7 countries must ditch this dinosaur, planet-wrecking fuel no later than 2030," Greenpeace International global climate politics expert Tracy Carty said in a statement. "And the climate emergency demands they just don't stop at coal. Fossil fuels are destroying people and planet and a commitment to rapidly phase out all fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—is urgently needed."

"This is not the goal for coal we need, and it will not deliver climate justice."

In their Climate, Energy, and Environment Ministers' Meeting Communiqué, the countries agreed to "phase out existing unabated coal power generation in our energy systems during the first half of 2030s or in a timeline consistent with keeping a limit of 1.5°C temperature rise within reach, in line with countries' net-zero pathways."

The agreement comes days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule mandating that all coal plants that plan to operate after 2039 must slash their climate-heating emissions by 90% by that date. Like the "unabated" language in the G7 communiqué, the EPA plan leaves open the possibility that coal plants could continue to run if they can effectively eliminate their carbon dioxide pollution with carbon capture and storage. However, this is an unproven technology that has not succeeded at scale; for example, Oil and Gas Watch News reported last Thursday that a taxpayer-funded CCS project at an ethanol plant in Illinois had only captured up to 10-12% of CO2 emissions each year for the past decade.

"It is past time that the U.S. made concrete commitments to phase out coal power," Jeff Ordower, the director of 350.org North America director, said in a statement. He added that while 350.org welcomed "this and all steps toward phasing out fossil fuels, such as the Environmental Protection Agency's recent announcement to further limit coal-fired power plants' CO2 emissions, we must not lose sight of what is really at stake."

Further, Ordower said that the U.S.' plans "must not rely on unproven technologies like carbon capture, or dangerous, expensive, and unequal ones like nuclear just so they can continue business as usual."

Similarly, 350.org Japan campaigner Masayoshi Iyoda said, "Japan agreeing to a specific deadline to phase out domestic coal power generation is momentous and long overdue."

"As an historic outlier among G7 countries on making coal phaseout commitments, and with the highest share of power generated from coal among its G7 peers, this is a step forward. However, 2035 is too late to meet the 1.5°Ctarget set in the Paris agreement," Iyoda continued.

"This was the first opportunity for the G7 to show they were taking the COP28 agreement seriously. They have failed."

Amnesty International also criticized the timeline of the deal.

"This is not the goal for coal we need, and it will not deliver climate justice," Candy Ofime, Amnesty International's climate justice researcher, said in a statement. "Commitments put forward by G7 members—which have burnt coal for power for more than a century—to stop using this pollutant by 2035 are simply too late and weakened by unacceptable caveats."

Ofime pointed out that the deal appeared to make no mention of phasing out coal in steel production, despite the fact that the process burns up around 30% of total coal use. She also argued that the language around "unabated" coal use was "misleading."

"Abatement relies on the use of carbon capture and storage, and other technologies such as ammonia and hydrogen co-firing with coal, which are unproven at scale and can come with other risks," Ofime sad. "Coal pollution cannot be adequately abated, and harms health and the climate whenever it is used."

Campaigners also criticized the G7 countries for focusing their timeline on coal and not oil and gas, especially since all nations agreed to work toward "transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly, and equitable manner" at last year's COP28 United Nations climate talks in Dubai.

"This was the first opportunity for the G7 to show they were taking the COP28 agreement seriously. They have failed," said Romain Ioualalen, Oil Change International's global policy campaign manager.

Oil Change pointed out that G7 countries are responsible for nearly half of all CO2 emissions from new oil and gas production, as well as 27% of production overall. At the same time, they subsidized fossil fuels to the tune of $25.7 billion a year between 2020 and 2022, compared to only $10.3 billion for renewables. While the countries did reaffirm a pledge to end "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 or earlier, they did not offer any more details on the timeline.

"While the G7 focuses on coal, it conveniently omits to stress that limiting warming to 1.5°C means they also need to end fossil fuel expansion at home, going fastest in phasing out existing production," Ioualalen said. "They must end the billions of dollars in taxpayer finance still flowing to fossil fuel projects abroad and fund the buildout of affordable renewable energy on fair terms. If their oil and gas expansion plans are allowed to proceed, it would lock in climate chaos and an unlivable future."

The ministers also reaffirmed the importance of natural gas deliveries to Europe to help it replace Russian gas in the wake of Russia's ongoing war on Ukraine. However, European officials have said that they will have enough gas supplies to last through the next decade despite a Biden administration pause on new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export approvals.

"Faced with climate catastrophe, the G7's persistent endorsement of fossil gas is alarming," Carty of Greenpeace said. "Gas is not needed, not cheap, and is certainly not a 'bridge fuel' to a safe climate. The biggest fossil fuel threat today by wealthy nations is coming from the rapidly expanding LNG industry. An urgent shift is needed towards less, not more, gas—and massively expanded renewables."

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