Less talk, more action from the G7 on climate change – POLITICO

Press play to listen to this article

It is difficult to persuade developing countries to abandon coal while reopening your own coal-fired power plants.

This is the dilemma facing the leaders of the wealthy industrialized countries of the G7 at their three-day summit which begins on Sunday. In the face of gas shortages and the need to break free from Russian energy dependence, they are looking to pump money into fossil fuels – but that does not match their message to poorer countries that they should do the jump towards green energy to stop overheating.

The answer?

Fewer postures and more money.

Rather than bullying developing countries with high-flying messages about climate change, the idea is to put in hard cash and other sweeteners to steer them away from fossil fuels.

“The world needs a positive investment boost, and it needs it now,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said this week at a development conference.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says ‘the world needs a positive investment boost, and it needs it now’ | Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Incentives could come in the form of energy investment deals, invitations to a climate club, offers for technology transfers and funding for innovation – all of which were discussed ahead of the summit of the G7.

The leaders of Senegal, India, Indonesia and South Africa have been invited to join the permanent members: the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, the UK and the EU. These four countries are now involved in discussions with the G7 countries on the so-called partnerships for a just energy transition. These involve multi-billion dollar deals to downsize coal industries and replace them with green energy. The model is tested in South Africa.

These initiatives offer something more concrete than endless incitement to UN climate talks.

“I don’t know if it’s going to work, but to me it feels more realistic. It seems to have a better chance of working,” said Zainab Usman, director of the Africa program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Ina-Maria Shikongo, a climate activist from Namibia, said: “European investment can make the difference between African countries struggling with last century’s polluting technologies that aggravate the climate crisis – or thriving economies based on safe and reliable renewables.

The clumsiness of the rich world as it attempts to spur a global transition to clean energy amid war, gas shortages and the hypocrisy of its own reliance on fossil fuels has been on full display lately. days.

“The root cause of our problems is our dependence on fossil fuels, which we need to get rid of,” von der Leyen said Friday in Brussels, less than 24 hours after the EU signed an agreement supporting “the continuation of exploration and investment from Norway to bring oil and gas to the European market.

Also in the European capital on Friday morning, G7 host and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the response to “major challenges in terms of the global economy” must “ensure that we can quickly operate in a climate-neutral way”. At the same time, Scholz negotiators were discussing with their G7 counterparts a call to invest taxpayers’ money in natural gas to replace Russian imports.

pay to play

The moral position of the G7 has not only been weakened by its energy security problems. Failure to deliver on pledges to send climate finance to the poorest countries has seriously damaged their position in climate negotiations.

There is also widespread acknowledgment among diplomats and climate watchers that naming and humiliating countries to get them to raise their climate targets has reached the end of its usefulness.

Last year, the US, EU and Britain choreographed the G7 and G20 to isolate China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. That drew marginal concessions from Beijing on ending international coal and methane funding, but no new climate targets. Then the UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow ended in disarray last November as China and India flexed their muscles and weakened an agreement to phase out coal.

“You only have to look at the closing Glasgow plenary to see that we need to find a different way of engaging with emerging economies that actually makes them want to do more,” said a German official.

The buzzword in climate circles to describe the shift from negotiating global agreements to actually reducing emissions is “Implementation.“This is changing the conversation between the big issuers of “What are you doing?to “What can we do for you?”

“Ultimately, implementation is not something that is negotiated. Implementation is something that has to be wanted by the country and continuously invested in,” the German official said.

Scholz has long championed an international climate club. Membership could offer bonuses ranging from access to proprietary research or technological innovations to exemption from border carbon tariffs. Details were being discussed by G7 negotiators ahead of the summit. Several officials from G7 countries told POLITICO that while there are barriers to entry based on climate efforts, the club’s intention is to be open enough to convince China, India, Indonesia and others to join.

“It’s also no longer enough to lead by example, set targets or make blanket commitments in the release,” said Alex Scott of think tank E3G. “We’re talking about changing the whole global economy, and every economy within it. So rubber hitting the road is a different challenge.

This has the added geopolitical advantage for Western countries of countering China’s Belt and Road overseas investment program. The US, EU and UK have all announced similar investment programs which they seek to coordinate at the summit. The leaders plan to formally launch a “global infrastructure partnership”, a US administration official said, although exact details of the types of projects it would involve were not specified.

At this time, the money has not flowed in any meaningful way. “China continues to write checks. The United States keeps saying, ‘We have a checkbook,'” said Hayley Channer, policy officer at the US-based Perth USAsia Center.

Moreover, the amount of funding and other incentives the G7 can muster – and therefore its effectiveness – is limited and possibly declining as the world slides into recession.

“The fear now is that with the war in Ukraine and everything going on in Europe, the attention, the funding and the resources to put into it are slow in coming,” Usman said.

Even in the example of overseas investment, the G7 green agenda faces a serious challenge in the face of the realities of the current energy crisis. All countries participating in the talks have pledged to end nearly all international fossil fuel funding by the end of 2022. But Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have led an EU charge to back new exploration gas in Africa. NGOs fear leaders will water down commitments made last year.

Despite this, political leaders have offered repeated – but not completely convincing – assurances that the world is only going in one direction.

“There will be no going back to cheap fossil fuels,” von der Leyen said on Friday. “I think.”

Zack Colman, Matthew Choi and Hans von der Burchard contributed reporting.

This article is part of POLITICO Pro

The one-stop solution for policy professionals fusing the depth of POLITICO journalism with the power of technology


Exclusive and never-before-seen scoops and ideas


Personalized Policy Intelligence Platform


A high-level public affairs network