Advocacy groups on Sunday expressed frustration with a joint statement in which climate, energy, and environment ministers from the world's top economies committed to tackling "the unprecedented triple global crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution" but also left the door open to investments in planet-wrecking fossil fuels.
The 36-page communiqué came out of a weekend meeting for ministers from the Group of Seven (G7)—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus the European Union. Japan hosted the ministerial event in Sapporo and is set to welcome world leaders from those nations to Hiroshima next month.
Allowing the G7's "addiction to fossil fuels to continue with their unsustainable consumption will have dangerous consequences for people and ecosystems," warned Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International.
"Every new investment in planet-heating fossil fuels is a death sentence for the vulnerable communities who are already facing devastating storms, floods, and rising seas," Singh said. "The rich, industrialized countries are also shirking their responsibilities to provide adequate finance to help poorer nations adapt to and recover from the losses and damages caused by climate disasters."
"Every new investment in planet-heating fossil fuels is a death sentence for the vulnerable communities who are already facing devastating storms, floods, and rising seas."
Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development, declared that "instead of delivering on climate finance obligations and fulfilling last year's commitment to end public finance for fossil fuels by the end of 2022, this year's Japan-led G7 continues its shameful disregard for what people and planet urgently need—a rapid, equitable, and just transition directly to renewable energy systems."
Referencing the bolder goal of the 2015 Paris agreement, the communiqué states that "we underline our commitment, in the context of a global effort, to accelerate the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels so as to achieve net-zero in energy systems by 2050 at the latest in line with the trajectories required to limit global average temperatures to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, and call on others to join us in taking the same action."
However, noting the energy impacts of Russia's war on Ukraine, the statement adds that "investment in the gas sector can be appropriate to help address potential market shortfalls provoked by the crisis, subject to clearly defined national circumstances, and if implemented in a manner consistent with our climate objectives and without creating lock-in effects, for example by ensuring that projects are integrated into national strategies for the development of low-carbon and renewable hydrogen."
Oil Change International (OCI) earlier this month published a briefing about how major economies—particularly the G7 countries Japan, the United States, Italy, and Germany—have poured billions of dollars of public financing into new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal capacity over the past decade. That document followed the group's March report calling out multiple countries for breaking their promise to swiftly cut off public finance for international fossil fuel projects.
Pointing to the Group of Seven's related pledge from last year, OCI public finance campaign co-manager Laurie van der Burg said Thursday that a new International Energy Agency analysis "reinforces that for the G7 not to jeopardize the 1.5°C global warming limit, they must not backslide on this commitment by endorsing new gas investments."
"The science is crystal clear that leaving the door open to investments in new gas or LNG leaves the G7 off track for 1.5°C," van der Burg stressed Sunday. "In addition, the claim that last year's G7 commitment to end international fossil fuel finance has been met is an outright lie as evidenced by new investments in fossil fuel projects."
"G7 leaders must next month fully close the door to investments in new gas and LNG and instead maximize on their opportunity to shift billions in public money out of fossil fuels and into the clean energy solutions that can build a more energy secure, sustainable, and affordable future," she said. "The U.K., Canada, and France have shown this can be done, Japan, Germany, Italy, and the United States must urgently catch up."
Along with the gas language in the communiqué, "Japan won endorsements from fellow G7 countries for its own national strategy emphasizing so-called clean coal, hydrogen, and nuclear energy to help ensure its energy security," The Associated Pressreported, explaining that a timeline to phase out coal "is a long-standing sticking point" because the nation relies on it for nearly a third of its power generation.
"This G7 ministerial revealed Japan's failure of climate leadership at a global level," charged OCI Asia program manager Susanne Wong. "At a time when we rapidly need to phase out fossil fuels, this year's G7 host pushed for the expansion of gas and LNG and technologies that would prolong the use of coal. We need Japan to stop prioritizing corporate interests and derailing the transition to clean energy with its dirty energy strategy."
Friends of the Earth Japan campaigner Hiroki Osada similarly argued that the country "has become both a promise-breaker and Earth-destroyer at the same time by continuing to finance fossil fuel projects overseas."
"With no time to waste to address climate change, nothing can justify new investment in fossil fuels, and no exceptions can be allowed," Osada added. "Japan should immediately end international financial support to fossil fuels in line with its G7 commitment, and should also commit to a complete phaseout from coal by 2030."
"LNG is... a bridge that ends in a hotter, more dangerous world for all of us, especially the world's most vulnerable people and ecosystems."
While campaigners certainly took aim at Japan, they also criticized other nations represented at the meeting.
"The effects of Italy's nonexistent implementation of its stop funding fossils pledge are beginning to reverberate on the international scene, now also with the Japan-led G7 ministerial," said Simone Ogno of ReCommon Italy. "We urge that the other G7 members like France and the U.K. work to bring both governments back on track. This is especially important as Italy is scheduled to host the G7 next year."
Leading up to the meeting this weekend, climate campaigners told U.S. President Joe Biden that "the global LNG boom must be stopped in its tracks," warning of the impacts on frontline communities, and were outraged when his administration approved a liquefied natural gas project in Alaska, on the heels of greenlighting ConocoPhillips' Willow oil development in the state.
"LNG is not a bridge fuel to a clean energy future," Leah Qusba, executive director of Action for the Climate Emergency, wrote Friday for The Hill, highlighting the resulting methane emissions. "It's a bridge that ends in a hotter, more dangerous world for all of us, especially the world's most vulnerable people and ecosystems."
After the meeting, OCI United States program manager Collin Rees said that "despite G7 ministers' rhetorical games, new investments in gas and LNG cannot be 'consistent with our climate objectives.' This is a deadly lie inconsistent with science and justice."
"Joe Biden's team signing off on this language rings dangerously hollow just days after he approved a massive LNG project in Alaska that, if built, will devastate communities and the climate for decades," Rees continued. "Biden must stand up to Japan's dirty energy lobby at the G7 and stop doing the gas industry's bidding at home."
Biden's climate envoy, John Kerry, even acknowledged during a Sunday interview with the AP that the international community has made progress over the past few years, "but we're not doing everything we said we'd do."
"A lot of countries need to step up, including ours, to reduce emissions faster, deploy renewables faster, bring new technologies online faster, all of that has to happen," said Kerry, who attended the meeting in Japan.
"If we're going to be responsible, we have to turn around and figure out how we are going to more rapidly terminate the emissions," he added. "We have to cut the emissions that are warming the planet and heading us inexorably toward several tipping points beyond which there is no reverse."