The summit of the seven largest economies of the world ended with a host of promises and a mixed bag of outcomes for progress on combating the climate crisis, as experts pointed out that the final communique left glaring loopholes despite dire warnings.
The Hiroshima G7 leaders’ summit communique was released ahead of schedule this year, prompted by the arrival of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
In the final communique, the powerful bloc reiterated its commitment to expanding more renewables. However, it left the door open for more gas investments in the short term in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis.
The text emphasised that these investments must be limited to “the exceptional circumstance” given the Russian-driven energy shock and “as a temporary response”.
Climate experts said this green light for investment in more gas was a “major contradiction” from the promise of limiting warming to 1.5C, which requires stopping all new investments in fossil fuel production.
Experts emphasised that the G7 was “not walking the talk” when it came to urgent reforms required to limit worsening impacts of the climate crisis despite dire warnings from scientists to halt all fossil fuel investments.
“G7 leaders have ignored warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: act now or it will be too late for 1.5C,” Tracy Carty, a global climate politics expert at Greenpeace International, said.
“The gap between G7 ambition and what climate science demands is stark and widening,” she said. “When G7 leaders refuse to shift gear, they doom current and future generations to sink deeper in a climate crisis. Time is running out.”
Other climate experts echoed the same concerns. Luca Bergamaschi, co-director of ECCO, a non-profit think tank, expressed concern over this contradiction, emphasising that the gas industry has already profited significantly, while governments have had to subsidise public bills.
“This is a major contradiction that will unnecessarily pressure already stretched public budgets and further fill the coffers of the gas industry,” Mr Bergamaschi said.
There was increased pressure on the G7 this year to deliver more on climate as the summit came after a series of stark warnings from international scientific bodies that the devastating impacts of the climate crisis were too close to us to ignore.
Last week, the World Meteorological Organisation said the 1.5C threshold, a limit agreed upon in the international Paris Agreement to limit global heating, was likely to be breached, at least temporarily, over the next five years.
It also said that at least one of the next five years was almost certain to become the warmest year on record. The devastating impact of the climate crisis has already multiplied in recent years even at the current 1.2C warming since the 1800s.
In 2023, early heatwaves gripped large parts of Asia, Europe, and Americas. Cyclones, floods and wildfires wreaking havoc on vulnerable communities have been scientifically proven to have been caused or exacerbated by rising global temperatures.
While the summit had a long to-do list amid a global energy crisis, Russian war on Ukraine, and rising tensions with China, experts hoped the group of rich and developed nations would give emphasis to the humanitarian cost of the climate crisis.
The G7 summit was also set to send strong signals for prioritising climate action for the upcoming G20 summit of developing countries happening in India and the UN’s climate summit in Dubai, Cop28, where all countries will once again unite to mull over a climate pact. However, the outcome has been lukewarm.
Harjeet Singh of Climate Action Network (CAN) said paying “lip service” to the need to keep global warming below 1.5C while at the same time continuing to invest in gas shows a “bizarre political disconnect from science and a complete disregard for the severity of the climate emergency”.
“Such hypocrisy from historical polluters as climate impacts continue to increase sets a low bar and jeopardises global efforts to fight the crisis,” he added. “The G7 countries must come to Cop28 with a clear focus on doing their fair share on phasing out fossil fuels and delivering climate finance.”
Other than continuing investments in gas, the G7 was also being criticised for the resistance by Japan, the host of the summit, to phasing out coal power generation and Germany’s continued focus on gas investments.
Coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, was agreed to be phased out in the landmark Cop26 summit in Glasgow in 2021. There is an increased push to phase out all fossil fuels, including gas, to be able to reduce the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that mainly come from fossil fuels.
“G7 leaders acknowledge we are facing a climate crisis and call on other countries to do more to fight it, but they weaken this message by not walking the talk at home,” Alden Meyer, a senior associate at think-tank E3G, said.
“In particular, Japan’s resistance to phasing out coal power generation and Germany’s insistence on more public investment in gas undercut the G7’s leadership at a time when it is desperately needed.”
Despite the controversy surrounding gas investments, the G7 leaders backed the commitment from their energy & climate ministers earlier in the year to rapidly hike investments in clean energy.
The G7 leaders did not endorse Japan’s efforts to promote coal and ammonia co-firing of coal in the communique. It called the use of renewable hydrogen or ammonia, co-firing with coal in the power sector, as reasonable only if it can be “aligned with a 1.5C pathway”. The stance underscored a clear divide between their collective climate goals and Japan’s position on coal.
The communique highlighted the goal of expanding renewable energy sources globally, specifically through offshore wind capacity and solar photovoltaic (PV) installations. The leaders collectively aimed for a 150GW increase in offshore wind capacity and over 1TW of solar PV by 2030.
In addition to these outcomes, the G7 leaders provided more details on their Clean Energy Economy Action Plan, aiming to create trade policies that decarbonise economies, develop resilient clean energy supply chains, and mobilise significant public and private sector investments in climate and energy security.
A lot of hopes were set on the summit for stronger commitment on the issue of climate finance that richer countries that have benefitted by emitting these fossil fuels are supposed to provide to developing and under developed countries to be able to adapt to worsening impacts of the crisis and invest in better mitigation efforts.
However, experts said not enough has been done to repair the broken trust after rich economies failed to stand up on their promise so far.
“This year’s G7 communiqué shows that the group of 7 is off track. While the communiqué reads good on many issues such as the need for further World Bank reform or new debt tools, it misses the mark on what’s really needed: action,” said Friederike Röder, vice-president for global advocacy at Global Citizen.
“No new concrete commitment has been made by the G7. For example, it is good to see a commitment to finally meeting the $100B international climate finance promise in 2023 – 3 years late – but no new pledges have been made to give this promise some credibility.”