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Energy security is likely to darken the climate at the G-7 summit

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Leaders of many of the world’s most powerful economies plan to gather in Germany on Sunday, where Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his government are facing a gas supply crisis that is ringing alarm bells.

The volatile energy situation in Germany and elsewhere is expected to take center stage in the Group of Seven talks, overshadowing plans to address climate change and potentially pushing leaders to withdraw from commitments to end international investment. fossil fuels this year.

It’s a strong turnaround since G-7 leaders met a year ago in Cornwall, England. And it is another example of how the Russian occupation of Ukraine has scratched the geopolitics of climate and energy.

With Europe, Germany in particular must urgently replace the Russian gas on which they have relied for so long, there is a risk that Europe will not defend the position that the G-7 should show leadership and invest nowhere in fossil fuels, said Alex Scott. , head of the program for climate diplomacy and geopolitics at E3G, a research institute.

So far, the signs do not look good.

Reduced gas flows from Russia have prompted the return of coal to Germany, Europe’s industrial powerhouse. Germany yesterday raised its emergency gas plan in the alarm phase, a signal to households and industries about supply shortages. Moreover, Germany is looking to expand where it gets its natural gas with Scholz who traveled to Senegal last month to discuss support for gas projects. This raises concerns that countries are investing in infrastructure that could block future warming by extending the use of fossil fuels beyond the timeframe that is safe for the planet.

A senior official from President Joe Bidens’s administration, speaking to reporters this week, said energy is expected to be at the center of discussions among G-7 leaders as they seek ways to stabilize global energy markets.

This does not mean that climate change is off the agenda. Some G-7 leaders have insisted they have not forgotten global warming, said Jonathan Elkind, a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy and former assistant secretary for international affairs at the Department of Energy.

But “in the near future, dealing with Russian aggression should be a job,” Elkind said.

For his part, Scholz, who took on the role of chancellor in December, is expected to present an idea he campaigned for: a climate club with like-minded nations.

The original idea depends on common climate policies and the price of carbon, but is unlikely to find support in Japan and the United States. During a speech to the German parliament earlier this week, Scholz described it as an international market with comparable standards and he said he hoped to use a series of global summits to further protect climate protection.

A future for coal?

Climate advocates will observe whether previous statements by G-7 ministerial groups will stand.

Ministers of Energy and Environment last month done to mainly eliminate emissions from their electricity systems by 2035 and to achieve highly decarbonized transport sectors by 2030.

But they have not yet set an end date for coal use at home. They also renewed a commitment issued in climate talks last year to end new overseas investment in fossil fuels by the end of 2022, except in limited circumstances that raise concerns among Greens that a such language can create a gap to allow for continued investment in polluting energies.

We are looking at how leaders get that start, what they say about renewable energy and how this is the solution to the energy price crisis and the supply crisis, and that any gas investment they make can only be short-term investments. . , said Scott from E3G.

In addition to being heavy economic weights, the G-7 countries, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States plus the European Union are among the largest historical emitters in the world. The way they approach their climate objectives can help boost the pace and ambitions of climate action elsewhere.

If elements of the energy and environment ministers ‘agreement are included in the leaders’ final statement, it could block what is happening at the national level, said Sascha Mller-Kraenner, head of the German environmental agency Deutsche Umwelthilfe.

Once you have some sort of coordinated engagement within the G-7, it makes it harder for G-7 countries to withdraw, he added.

But if it leads to more investment in the long-term use of fossil fuels, it could thwart efforts to keep global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels, activists say.

Move forward for finances

The G-7 nations will not be the only ones watching what will happen in the coming days in Germany. Developing countries will look at what the G-7 says about climate finance, especially after debates over irreparable climate damage payments closed at a climate conference last week in Bonn, Germany (Climatic wireJune 21).

An important gesture would be to acknowledge a failure to meet a commitment two years ago due to the distribution of $ 100 billion a year to help developing countries avoid and adapt to the impacts of climate change, said Joe Thwaites, an international climate advocate for the Natural Resources Protection Council. .

G-7 leaders will need to provide some indication of what they are doing to double funding for adjustment by 2025, he added.

As president of the G-7, Germany has also invited Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa to attend selected sessions at the three-day summit in the Bavarian Alps.

These talks are likely to depend on the development of energy partnerships aimed at transitioning their emerging economies away from coal. Several G-7 leaders signed a $ 8.5 billion deal in recent years on climate talks to help South Africa decarbonize its coal-dependent energy system. The effort is seen as a model for similar projects in other countries.

What is not clear is how the commitments made in Germany will continue after the summit. Bidens’ climate agenda has stalled in Congress, and an ambitious budget request to support $ 11 billion in international climate funding is unlikely to receive approval. Japan and France are also facing energy security challenges. Leaders in France and the UK are also politically contested, and energy-poor Japan is facing its own energy insecurities.

Susanne Drge, a senior fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said Germany’s decision to increase coal use and reduce its emphasis on climate war puts the G-7 in a difficult position.

The big picture is that the G-7 cannot play the role it normally does in preparing for climate negotiations and international climate co-operation, she said. Basically, it is a step backwards.

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