Petrol, diesel use may soon be over, G7 meet puts end date to fossil fuel

The Group of Seven environment and energy ministers set a deadline of 2050 to end use of fossil fuel like petrol and diesel to reduce vehicle emission
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The Group of Seven environment and energy ministers failed to set a clear deadline for ending fossil fuel use after their two-day talks that ended Sunday.
The Group of Seven environment and energy ministers failed to set a clear deadline for ending fossil fuel use after their two-day talks that ended Sunday.

The meeting of Group of Seven energy and environment ministers ended Sunday without a deadline to halt new coal investments or the kinds of firm commitments that climate advocates have said are necessary to limit global warming. In its official communique, the Group of Seven ministers pledged to work toward cleaning emissions from power generation and reducing vehicle emissions by 2035, but it left open the door to new investment in natural gas and ongoing use of fossil fuels.

“It falls short of being the clarion call to action that was needed," Alden Meyer, a senior associate at consultant E3G said in a Twitter Spaces conversation. The group undermines its global authority, he added, “every time they allow carve-outs on issues like international fossil fuel finance."

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The seven most developed economies see themselves as leaders of global efforts to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, and the group communique sets the tone for negotiations around energy and climate among the Group of 20 countries and at the UN climate summit — COP28 — in Dubai in November.

The new statement seemed to weaken at least one previous commitment, climate activists said. At last year’s meeting, the group’s promise was specific: to halt “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 that are consistent with a 1.5°C warming limit."

But now, with the war in Ukraine and its effects on oil and gas supplies stretching into a second year, the group said “investment in the gas sector can be appropriate to help address potential market shortfalls," as long as they’re “implemented in a manner consistent with our climate objectives and without creating lock-in effects."

French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher suggested the new language was more strict than what had been proposed initially. It “implicitly means that we cannot invest in the exploration of new gas capacity," she said. The final language was designed in part to appease Japan, which hosted the meeting, and Germany’s Deputy Energy Minister Patrick Graichen called the group’s position “carefully balanced."

Some of the results were more encouraging. The group said it planned to boost solar capacity to more than 1,000 gigawatts and offshore wind generation to 150 gigawatts across its constituents by the end of this decade. The Nikkei reported Saturday those figures would triple solar power and increase offshore wind capacity seven-fold across the group.

“The G-7 are confirming that solar and wind are in line for takeoff," Dave Jones, head of data insights at energy think tank Ember said in the same Twitter Spaces. The figures underscore “very clearly that wind and solar are the biggest and cheapest tools in the toolbox to reduce emissions this decade."

Pannier-Runacher told reporters Saturday the highlight from this year’s negotiations was an agreement to accelerate the phase-out of unabated fossil fuels. However, the group “could not reach an agreement on exiting coal by a specific date," she said.

The communique also made clear that technologies like co-firing ammonia and hydrogen should be limited to sectors that can’t reduce emissions in any other way, said E3G’s Meyer, who said the language rebuffs Japan’s attempts to promote the technologies as a way to clean the emissions from thermal power plants.

The group acknowledged an opportunity to collectively cut vehicle emissions at least 50% by 2035 without promising to make such a reduction. Some countries have said all new passenger cars should be electric vehicles by 2035.

This weekend’s meeting in Sapporo is a precursor to the annual G-7 summit for world leaders, which Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will host in Hiroshima next month.

First Published Date: 17 Apr 2023, 09:57 AM IST
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