THE G7 TRIES TO APPLY PATCHES WHERE A REVOLUTION IS NEEDED
The 2022 summit of the seven world’s most industrialised countries, the G7, took place in Germany from 26th to 28th June. Heads of State and Government gathered in Bavaria to discuss and issue the final political declaration, after months of ministerial-level meetings on various topics.
The summit was undoubtedly affected by the ongoing conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. What should have been the G7 on post-pandemic recovery, on the wake of the previous summit in Cornwall in 2021, became instead a summit on energy security, food and economic outlooks.
The seven countries’ leaderships arrived to the summit either weak (Germany), recently weakened (France), with uncertain prospects (the United States, with mid-term elections coming up in October), or close to the end of mandate (Italy). Certainly not the best premises for projecting an image of power and far-sightedness expected in the face of Russian aggression and of the numerous economic and geopolitical challenges that have been emerging in 2022. Such failure has been partially saved by the almost simultaneous NATO summit, that opened in Spain on Tuesday 28 June, through which the proposition of a new strategic projection of the West in some way temporarily overshadowed internal political events.
G7, no new ideas and vague formulas on climate
On climate, the G7 leaders reaffirmed commitments and perspectives already expressed and known. Among them:
- the need to keep global average temperature growth within +1.5°C by the end of the century, in line with the Paris Agreement and the IPCC;
- the urgency to reduce global emissions by around 43% compared to 2019 by 2030;
- the commitment to revise upwards the national contributions under the Paris Agreement (NDCs) by the end of 2022, as agreed at COP26;
- the commitment to reach $100 billion in climate finance as soon as possible, and in any case by 2023;
- the commitment to eliminate inefficient fossil subsidies by 2025;
- the commitment on methane made in Glasgow.
Many due reassurances then, however non-trivial given the current context.
If in 2021 the two G7 and G20 fora had played the role of forerunners on climate ambition, this year we can see how nothing substantially new came out of the restricted summit. Much less can we expect from the G20, of which the Russian Federation is (still) formally part. No new ideas and vague formulas.
The fifth page of the final communiqué is an example of this vagueness. It says that the G7 countries “commit to end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022, except in limited circumstances clearly defined by each country consistent with a 1.5°C warming limit and the goals of the Paris Agreement”. So what about the current public support? What about private one, or private one financed even partially by public finance? Are installations offset by carbon capture and storage lawful, and if so, within what limits? What are the guidelines to be followed by each country in identifying special circumstances? None of these questions are answered, and perhaps this is no coincidence.
Climate, the only new ideas at the G7 were on climate ambition and loss and damage.
On climate ambition, at least in appearance, a push forward is being sought with the creation of the Climate Club, an ‘intergovernmental forum of high ambition’ designed to operate at a higher speed than the UNFCCC negotiating process – following a two-speed script already seen in Glasgow in 2021. The Climate Club, to be launched operationally and thus with its own intergovernmental structure by the end of 2022, will be built on the three pillars of policy ambition, coordinated transformation of key economic sectors to accelerate decarbonisation, and international partnerships and cooperation. All this under the umbrella of climate scenarios and policies compatible with the Paris Agreement, in its most ambitious target of +1.5°C.
In our view, the emergence of the two-speed approach – which was taken to extremes in Glasgow with the launch of almost ten multilateral initiatives in a few days in parallel – does not counteract a faster achievement of international climate goals. On the contrary, it enhances its chance.
However, we cannot avoid wondering whether the launch of the Climate Club does not represent a mere façade operation with respect to the outcomes of an otherwise disappointing summit on climate policy. This holds even more true if we consider the fact that in the summit’s final declaration itself, the leaders insist on transitional measures for energy adaptation to the geopolitical scenario, with a formal request to oil-producing countries to increase production and proposing new public investments in natural gas and LPG transportation networks.
A bridge to the post-war period, to be optimistic. Patches where a revolution is needed: the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables.
The Climate Club may indeed represent a great opportunity, as highlighted in the requests of young representatives during the Y7, but it may also turn out to be yet another forum for dialogue with no concrete political repercussions – as for the recent example of the Glasgow Climate Dialogues – if, as possible, the current reorganisation of the G7 countries’ national energy mixes proves to be structural.
Loss and Damage
On the issue of loss and damage, the G7 took a distinctly disappointing line. Barely two weeks after the political rift observed at the UNFCCC interim negotiations by developing countries – which, after the disappointment of the Glasgow Climate Dialogues, strongly demanded the establishment of a loss and damage fund at COP27 – the G7 leaders wanted to strike a blow on the issue by launching a Global Shield against Climate Risks. This is an enhancement of existing insurance-type initiatives (e.g. by strengthening the InsuResilience Global Partnership), diverting the central issue of reparations for losses and damage already underway to insurance-type dynamics, thus to future and potential risks.
by Jacopo Bencini, Policy Advisor and UNFCCC Contact Point