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April 26, 2024

G7 leaders need to show climate clarity

The G7 countries were responsible for 21% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, and collectively aim to achieve a 40%-42% emissions reduction by 2030 © AP
The G7 countries were responsible for 21% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, and collectively aim to achieve a 40%-42% emissions reduction by 2030 © AP

Maria Mendiluce is chief executive of the We Mean Business Coalition

Environment ministers from the world’s richest countries meeting in Italy this weekend should agree timelines and plans for climate action

As the world strives to limit global warming to 1.5C to avert catastrophic climate change, the call for tangible action is intensifying. The G7, comprising some of the most influential industrial democracies, and this year led by Italy, holds a pivotal role in guiding global efforts to transition away from fossil fuels. Business leaders and investors are seeking clarity on plans and timelines for climate action and the G7 nations need to prove their relevance with decisive leadership.

This weekend, G7 climate, energy and environment ministers will meet in Venaria Reale, in Italy. Each year the global climate seems to offer a backdrop of increasingly astonishing exemplars for urgent action. This year is no different, with temperatures recently climbing to more than 45C in Mali and Burkina Faso, research indicating heat-related mortality in Europe has increased by around 30 per cent in the past 20 years, and the world’s warmest March on record raising fears that climate change is moving into “uncharted territory”.

A report from the UN’s International Labour Organization has found that climate change is already having a serious impact on the health and safety of a “staggering” number of workers in all parts of the world.

To meet these mounting challenges, significant and meaningful action is needed, including tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030, doubling of the rate of energy efficiency improvements, and achieving fully decarbonised power systems by 2035. Supporting global south nations in diversifying their energy systems is also a crucial aspect of this transition, both in terms of finance and capacity building for just transition planning.

A shift from fossil fuels to clean energy is not just a matter of environmental responsibility, but also economic strategy. Countries that advance rapidly towards clean energy will gain greater energy security, affordability and long-term economic benefits. Those that lag risk missing out on key investment and innovation opportunities, as well as incurring economic and societal costs from delayed action.

The impacts of climate change on economic and cultural mainstays are increasing in every region of the world; a reality not lost on G7 host Italy, where celebrated agricultural produce — such as olive oil, parmesan cheese, pasta and wine — are facing huge threats due to changing climate conditions.

These may read like wealthy country problems when set against enduring cycles of drought and a food crisis sweeping southern Africa, or flooding in Pakistan, but severe climate impacts are coming home to roost in the highest-emitting countries, with wildfires and heatwaves, deluges of snow and rain affecting agriculture and workforces, businesses and transport.

The G7 countries make up around 38 per cent of the global economy and were responsible for 21 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. They collectively aim to achieve a 40-42 per cent emissions reduction by 2030, but research indicates that existing policies are on track for only a 19-33 per cent fall in emissions by the end of the decade. The analysis suggests this shortfall would lead to greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 exceeding a 1.5C compatible level.

Setting the global standard

With 2024 poised to be the hottest year on record, the pressures of extreme weather are disrupting supply chains and intensifying economic stress. The G7 nations have the power to set the global standard in transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy. With power comes responsibility.  Numerous companies worldwide have already begun this transition, urging governments to follow suit and leverage the potential for sustainable growth and stability.

The good news is that we already have international consensus on the policy direction needed — with strong signals coming from both COP28, as well as the G7 last year, which committed to phasing out unabated fossil fuels in line with a 1.5C trajectory.

G7 countries must now demonstrate how they will translate those signals into national policy and commit to setting clear national targets and timelines for the required action, embedded in new, nationally determined contributions. These plans should encompass provision for a just transition for affected workers and communities, ensuring that no one is left behind.

The G7 nations should embed in their NDCs how national targets will contribute to tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency improvements by 2030 and report on progress to date.

Achieving a fully decarbonised power system by 2035 remains an essential goal, complemented by plans to reform fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. These subsidies should be redirected towards energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

The G7 must also extend support to global south nations, assisting them in diversifying their energy systems and developing 1.5C-aligned economic pathways. This aid should be provided in ways that do not exacerbate sovereign debt burdens, promoting equitable and sustainable progress.

Finally, integrating nature and biodiversity targets into NDCs is imperative, including commitments to halt and reverse deforestation and forest degradation by 2030. Recognising the interdependencies between nature and climate is crucial to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Italy and the G7 nations must seize this pivotal moment to demonstrate their global leadership by delivering on commitments and accelerating transition to a sustainable future in line with science. While challenges persist, the long-term benefits of a proactive approach promise economic resilience and environmental stability.

By taking bold action now, the G7 can use its influence to lay the foundation for a more sustainable and prosperous future for generations to come.

A service from the Financial Times