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G7 Ministers Set Big Targets for Wind and Solar Expansion, Fail to Provide Coal Exit Timeline

by Martina Igini Americas Asia Europe Apr 17th 20233 mins
G7 Ministers Set Big Targets for Wind and Solar Expansion, Fail to Provide Coal Exit Timeline

Following two days of intense negotiations in Sapporo, Japan, the world’s seven most powerful economies agreed to accelerate the expansion of renewables, including solar and wind, on a global scale. The G7 ministers, however, were heavily criticised for leaving the door open for new natural gas investments and failing to provide a timeline for a coal phaseout.  

G7 environment ministers on Sunday agreed to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, committing to a rapid expansion of solar and wind energy, but failing to provide a concrete timeline for fossil fuel phaseout, which climate experts insist is needed to limit global warming.

In the official communiqué agreed upon at the end of the two-day summit in Sapporo, Japan, the Group of Seven ministers from the world’s largest economies pledged to expand renewable energy globally while cutting costs, and committed to an offshore wind capacity increase of 150 gigawatts and an increase of solar to more than 1 terawatt by 2030.

Energy think thank Ember’s head of data insights Dave Jones called the renewable commitments “huge statements,” adding that he hopes they “will provide a challenge to Japan, for which offshore wind is the missing part of the jigsaw that could see its power sector decarbonise much quicker than it thought possible.”

In weeks preceding the G7 meeting, host country Japan was met with criticism by climate experts and other countries for its reluctance to move away from carbon-intensive energy sources and its reliance on fuels like ammonia, a low-carbon energy source that, despite not being a greenhouse gas, heavily relies on fossil fuels for its production.

On coal, the ministers reaffirmed their commitment to “fully or predominantly” decarbonise the power sector by 2035, calling on other countries to phase out new unabated coal-fired power generation projects “as soon as possible” but stopping short of endorsing a 2030 deadline that Canada and other countries had campaigned for. 

Despite committing to “accelerate the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels,” after the UK, Germany, and France successful negotiation for its inclusion in the final agreement, experts criticised the G7 ministers for failing to provide a concrete timeline.

They also endorsed gas investments, as long as they are “implemented in a manner consistent with our climate objectives and without creating lock-in effects,” citing the benefits of such investments in addressing shortfalls provoked by the energy crisis. Energy-poor Japan said it plans to keep liquified natural gas (LNG) as a transition fuel for at least a decade.

At last year’s meeting, the group – which includes the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan – promised to “halt new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022,” except for investments consistent with the 1.5C warming limit.

In a series of new reports and analyses published last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) urged countries to halt new gas and oil field projects, suggesting that existing supply is more than enough to meet demand and arguing that this is the only way to keep the 1.5C-compatible Net Zero Emission (NZE) scenario alive.

“By failing to commit to fully decarbonising the power sector, to slashing road sector emissions and totally eliminate international fossil fuel finance, the ministers really missed an opportunity to provide leadership in addressing the climate emergency,” Alden Meyer, senior associate at E3G, a climate consultancy, told the Financial Times.

The seven economic superpowers also pledged over US$7.5 billion to secure a stable supply of critical minerals. Despite being key resources necessary to support the green transition, mining activities in mineral-rich countries are associated with dangerous workers’ exploitation and other serious environmental and social issues.

“We reaffirm the growing importance of critical minerals for the clean energy transition and the need to prevent economic and security risks caused by vulnerable supply chains, monopolisation, lack of diversification of existing suppliers of critical minerals,” the comminiqué reads.

“We emphasise the importance of countering geopolitical risks, including with respect to critical minerals, for the clean energy transition [and] … boost up developing new mines and supply chains for critical minerals in a responsible manner that promotes transparency and traceability to meet the rising demand.”

The announcement came in the face of increased competition from China to source critical minerals that are essential in manufacturing semiconductors, electric vehicle batteries, and other green technologies, including lithium and nickel. 

You might also like: UN Adopts Historic Resolution on Climate Justice in Major Win for Island States

About the Author

Martina Igini

Martina holds two BA degrees, in Translation/Interpreting Studies and Journalism, and a MA in International Development from the University of Vienna. After working at the United Nations Global Communication Department in Vienna, she joined a newspaper in Italy as a reporter before moving to Hong Kong in 2020. Her interests include sustainability and the role of public policy in environmental protection with a focus on developing countries.

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