For some years now, those of us who follow international climate policy has been equipped to closely follow the work of the G7 and G20, forums that help to guess the direction of the next COP, according to the now customary G7-G20-COP calendar, with increasing degrees of involvement of the world’s different governments. Plateau is the case of the Italian-led G20 in 2021, which, led by the Draghi government given the British-Italian COP26, succeeded in bringing back into the declarations of intent the role of science, of the IPCC and the importance of the Paris Agreement’s minimum objective of containing average temperature growth within +1.5°C by the end of the century, which many governments at the time already took for granted as unattainable.

One must be realistic, however. No one expected that the Japanese-led G7 meeting in recent months would be able to make any surprising breakthrough in the long-established wait-and-see trend of the past two years, dictated mainly by the international chaos over prices and energy generated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, it was important to monitor and, within the limits of civil society’s reach, to ensure that those minimal achievements of the Italian G20 two years ago were not forgotten or, as more easily happens in politics, omitted by feigned forgetfulness from the final texts.

The final G7 political communiqué approved by all the leaders does not take any steps backwards in this sense, but neither does it go forwards. It confirms the importance of the Paris minimum target – mentioned as many as sixteen times in the text – and the importance of the role of science and of the intergovernmental committee of Scientists, the IPCC, which for decades has been showing governments the way to avoid disaster in the fossil crisis. All this may seem positive to us if we think that this G7 is meeting in the middle of a war of attrition in the heart of Europe, but it is not: the above was the basis for any subsequent summit or agreement from 2021 onwards, given the urgency. Certainly, not a glazed status quo, born old and now to be seen as a firm basis for any new policies.

Instead, the new policies seem to respond much more to short-term energy and price urgency than to broader reasoning, leading the text to contradict itself in numerous passages. With this, we certainly do not want to take an adamant and unrealistic position concerning the need of every European government to provide affordable energy to its citizens, of course not: we only emphasise that, with the necessary public investment and mobilisation of private capital, there would be many ways to reach the same goal. Instead, the G7 governments have decided for the umpteenth time to invest in gas, in the immediate future and – let’s face it, nobody builds multi-million-euro infrastructures to dismantle them after two years, before any depreciation – in the coming years.

Indeed, the G7 final communiqué states that ‘public support for gas investments is appropriate as a temporary response’ to the current energy crisis. The same governments that cite the goal of staying within +1.5°C sixteen times in the same text should understand no new investment in fossil energy infrastructure can be considered ‘appropriate’, given the growing urgency and the already widely available renewable technologies, now increasingly cheaper, in the seven markets. In the political dialectic about this decision, there are not only two players, governments, and science. Other interests enter the game. Without a true vision of ecological transition that also includes labour support, and social funds for transition and retraining, a variable, well-directed by some, of ‘green terror’ in terms of work and production enters the equation as always. The terror is now largely unfounded and linked to false beliefs that are entirely conservative, outdated and progressively self-evaluating.

The final communiqué of the G7 finally brings nothing new – and this is a pity – about international climate finance, even given the launch at COP28 of the new global fund to support compensation for climate change-related losses and damage. From the Japanese G7, with the Russian Federation out of the room waiting to participate in the next G20 in a few months, we could perhaps have expected a commitment from the planet’s major economies towards surpassing the now prehistoric goal (launched in Copenhagen in 2009) of guaranteeing at least 100 billion dollars a year in climate finance for the poorest countries, a goal that has never been achieved. The G7 communiqué confirms the will to do so by 2023: with no little discouragement we stress that this is the fourteenth time in fourteen years that we have heard this and, on this issue, the financing of multilateral funds, our country unfortunately does not shine for initiative. In the meantime, according to Oxfam, the current needs and requirements of the most fragile countries have been estimated, only for the part relating to losses and damage and without counting mitigation and adaptation actions, at 8.7 trillion dollars against the 100 promised for years: needs and promises now to play different games.

Wanting to see a positive note in the text, we find it unsurprising that the very new loss and damage fund mentioned above is mentioned several times. A fund that, let us remember, none of the G7 countries wanted to see come into being at COP27, preferring to see buffer solutions based on insurance schemes such as the Global Shield promoted by the United States and Germany. Put to the wall by the granitic blockade of the developing countries and forced, in Egypt, to accept and make their prediction of the new fund, the seven big countries may have missed today the opportunity to relaunch global ambition on at least one issue, that of loss and damage, by communicating the first promises in terms of financing for the start-up of the fund itself, given also that from the first drafts circulating it is clear that the fund will not require contributions based on historical responsibilities. But perhaps it is early days, we remain hopeful that something in this sense will move during the year. To be understood, finally, what the Italian role will be in this story.

Article by Jacopo Bencini, Policy Advisor and UNFCCC Contact Point

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