The G7 leaders have been urged not to water down commitments on climate change amid growing fears they are set to pursue “disastrous” fossil fuel projects to ease supply problems stemming from the Ukraine war.
There are growing fears of a shift back to coal and gas investment, as the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Japan, UK, US and Canada kicked off three days of talks on the economy, energy and security issues in Bavaria yesterday.
Germany and Italy have announced plans to revive old coal plants as gas supplies from Russia dwindle, while UK prime minister Boris Johnson has hinted at support for a new mine in Cumbria.
German chancellor Olaf Scholz – desperately trying to stave off gas rationing – has also said he wants to “intensively” pursue fossil fuel projects in Senegal to provide a new source outside of Russia.
It comes despite a deal forged last month by G7 climate ministers to end all public investment in overseas fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022.
Alex Scott, climate diplomacy lead at the EG3 think tank, said “we’re getting signals that some are rowing back” on the green energy transition commitment.
“It was a big triumph getting Japan to sign up to ending investment in overseas fossil fuels,” she said. “We’re worried Germany could now water down the language because of the urgency they feel in replacing short-term gas supplies.”
At a meeting in May, G7 climate ministers also committed to a goal of achieving “predominantly” carbon-free electricity by 2035 but gave no dates on the phase-out of coal.
Mr Johnson suggested last week that Britain should start mining its own coal again – saying it “makes no sense” for Britain to be importing coal from abroad “when we have our own domestic resources”.
There is concern that the climate emergency will be pitted against the current energy and food crises among leaders in Bavaria, and that action on cutting carbon will lose out.
Viviane Raddatz, director of climate policy at WWF Germany, added: “The temptation and pressure to find quick solutions could see Germany and other governments further deepening their dependence on fossil fuel infrastructure.”
Another crucial issue for the G7 centres around biofuels and food production. Officials from some G7 countries, including Germany and the UK, will push for temporary waivers on biofuels mandates to combat soaring food prices, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden is expected to push fellow G7 leaders to commit more to last year’s promise to scale up green infrastructure investment from “millions to trillions” to help meet targets.
Germany is also keen to push the idea of an international “climate club” – a group of countries with the highest ambitions for carbon-cutting policy – as a way of setting a new standard.