G7 Environment Ministers Issue Bold And Broad Declaration Ahead Of Leaders Meeting


Last Friday, the G7 Environment Ministers issued a long and detailed statement loaded with promises and high ambition. The most headline-grabbing of the pledges was around the decision to end direct financial support for new coal-fired plants in developing countries going forward. In addition, they pledged to "conserve or protect" 30% of land and ocean for nature by 2030, and that both climate change and biodiversity loss are "the key drivers of global biodiversity loss and climate change are the same as those that increase the risk of zoonoses, which can lead to pandemics." They also committed to increasing "efforts at international, regional and national level, to conserve and sustainably use the ocean, thus increasing its resilience."

UN: How nature can protect us from pandemics, April 23, 2020.

Why This Matters

The most important pledge of all was the promise to ensure that national policies keep warming to 1.5 degrees C rather than to 2 degrees C, which means deeper cuts in emissions by 2030. According to the BBC, the ministers were swayed by the IEA report from last week that warned that the "path to net-zero emissions is narrow" and will require "massive deployment of all available clean energy technologies" by 2030.

Biodiversity and Oceans Are In The Text

One key point was emphasized by the group right up front -- that "climate change and the health of the natural environment are intrinsically linked and will ensure that the actions we take maximise the opportunities to solve these crises in parallel." Indeed, the key pledge of the meeting was stated in terms of both climate and nature.

We will help set the world on a nature positive and climate-resilient pathway to bend the curve of biodiversity loss by 2030 and to keep a limit of 1.5°C temperature rise within reach by making our 2030 ambitions consistent with the aim of achieving net-zero emissions as soon as possible and by 2050 at the latest.

National Geographic Society: The Campaign For Nature - A New Vision for Nature, November 4, 2020.

Phase Out Coal

Many news outlets concluded that the main takeaway from the meeting was the pledge to "phase out new direct government support for carbon-intensive international fossil fuel energy," most likely referring to coal and oil. But the commitment did not have a concrete deadline -- thus providing flexibility, but also making it harder to enforce. Previously, many countries including Japan have stood against a strict pledge but they will likely continue to feel the heat between now and the COP26 in Glasgow this fall. The ministers were more explicit on coal, saying:

We stress that international investments in unabated coal must stop now and commit to take concrete steps towards an absolute end to new direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021, including through Official Development Assistance, export finance, investment, and financial and trade promotion support.

Union of Concerned Scientists: Everything to Know About Coal (in Under 3 Minutes), January 4, 2018.

G20 In the Hot Seat

Parts of the communique seemed directed towards China (not a G7 member). Special Envoy Kerry immediately called on the G20 -- which includes China -- to agree to the same pledges.

Kerry immediately issued the following statement:

We do call on all G20 countries now, and all other major economies to join with us. This is not just a one-off event, we hope. It is critical to the goals that we all have for Glasgow.