G7 nations make first coal phase out commitment

Article by Amanda Jasi

G7 NATIONS have announced a commitment to achieving “predominantly decarbonised electricity sectors” by 2035 and taking “concrete and timely” steps towards phasing out unabated coal power. This is the first time G7 countries have committed to phasing out coal.

The targets were announced in a recent communiqué, published after a two-day meeting between G7 Climate, Energy, and Environment ministers in Berlin, Germany, last week.

The countries did not set a date for coal phase out. According to Reuters, in a draft proposal the deadline for phasing out coal was set for 2030, but this is missing from the final agreement. In a previous report, the news company said that sources familiar with the discussions claimed Japan and the US indicated they could not support a phase out by that deadline.

However, as they target the 2035 goal for electricity grids, ministers write that they are “prioritising” steps towards phasing out domestic unabated coal power generation. For this, they add they will “rapidly scale up the necessary technologies and policies for the clean energy transition”.

The communiqué highlights that governments ended new direct support for unabated thermal coal-fired power generation, in 2021. Ministers also committed to stop new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022 – except in limited circumstances clearly defined by each country that are in line with a 1.5oC limit and the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The countries will align official trade, export, and development finance policies towards these goals, including the possibility of further incentives for clean energy technologies, and implementing commitments in this time frame.

G7 countries also intend to end inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. Ministers recognise that in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, countries have sought to financially support companies and citizens affected by “severely rising” fossil fuel prices, but state that they aim for relief measures to be temporary and targeted.

To increase transparency, ministers add they aim to report on progress towards their 2025 target next year. This will build on ongoing processes and will consider options for developing joint public inventories for fossil fuel subsidies “as soon as possible”.

Ministers further recognised the impacts of Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine on areas including energy supply and the energy market. They called on oil and gas producing countries to act responsibly and respond to tightening international markets, highlighting that OPEC has a key role to play.

News reports note that the oil cartel has so far rebuffed western calls to increase production to lower surging prices. The Financial Times reported that OPEC member Saudi Arabia signalled earlier this month that it would “stand by” Russia.

Alok Sharma, President for COP26, said the recent communiqué reaffirms commitment to the Paris Agreement and to the goals set in the Glasgow Climate Pact. Agreed after two weeks of negotiations at COP26, the Pact was the first UN document to directly mention fossil fuels in relation to climate change.

“The current crises should increase, not diminish, our determination to deliver on the challenges we face on climate, on energy, and on the environment,” Sharma said.

He added: “While governments need to deal with their immediate and acute energy needs, we can, and we must, do this without locking in medium- and long-term emissions. Looking ahead, we must aim to arrive in Egypt having gone further […] We have no other choice if we really aim to keep 1.5 within reach.”

Egypt will host the 27th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27), which will take place from 7–18 November 2022.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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