Tag Archives: G7

Canada commits to G7 plan to end use of fossil fuels

Repost rom the Globe and Mail, Toronto

Canada commits to G7 plan to end use of fossil fuels

‎Steven Chase, KRÜN, Germany, Jun. 09, 2015 1:16AM EDT

Canada has joined other Group of Seven leaders in pledging to stop burning fossil fuels by the end of the century, but Canadian officials are playing down the promise as an “aspirational” target and Stephen Harper says it will only be reached through advances in technology.

In their end-of-meeting statement, G7 leaders called for an end to fossil-fuel use by the global economy by 2100 as well as cuts to greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 that lower them as much as 70 per cent from 2010 levels.

The G7 statement represents a watered-down goal from what German Chancellor Angela Merkel as host of the‎ summit had sought. Ms. Merkel had been pushing for a commitment to a low-carbon economy, or relatively light use of fossil fuels, by 2050.

A Western diplomat said European countries in the G7 went into the meeting looking for stronger language about moving to a global low-carbon economy, and it was Canada, a net exporter of energy, along with Japan, who wanted to push back the stated timelines for that ambition. In the end, one diplomat noted, the G7’s final communiqué, which calls for decarbonisation of the global economy “over the course of this century,” allows each country to put a different interpretation on whether that would happen nearer to 2050 or 2100. But the notion of decarbonisation, at least, was agreed upon.

Lutz Weischer, the team leader for international climate policy at Germanwatch, a non-government organization that advocates sustainable development, said, ultimately, Canada didn’t want to be seen as “a one-country minority.”

The Prime Minister’s Office denied that Canada had been trying behind the scene to soften language and commitments on fighting climate change. “There was a consensus and Canada supported that outcome,” PMO spokesman Stephen Lecce said.

By having the G7 leaders present a united front on climate, Ms. Merkel did achieve her goal to lay the groundwork for an international agreement on climate, to be discussed in Paris in December.

“Mindful of this goal … we emphasize that deep cuts in global greenhouse-gas emissions are required with a decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century,” the leaders of the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Japan, Italy and Canada said in a communiqué.

G7 member countries agreed to a goal of limiting the increase in global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

For Mr. Harper, a politician from petroleum-rich Alberta, the pledge comes as a surprise, since it amounts to slapping to an expiry sticker on one of Canada’s major economic drivers, including the oil sands. But these commitments impose no firm obligations on Mr. Harper’s government in the short term and he said results will be achieved through technology, not economic sacrifice.

“I don’t think we should fool ourselves. Nobody is going to start to shutdown their industries or turn off the lights,” Mr. Harper told reporters after the G7 summit wrapped up in Germany’s Bavarian Alps. “To achieve these kinds of milestones over the decades to come will require serious technological transformation,” he said.

A senior Canadian government official tried to allay the impression that Mr. Harper had written off the oil patch, calling the G7 statement an “aspirational target” and repeating the Prime Minister’s comments that it’s up to technology to save the day.

In the oil sands, scores of companies have abandoned expansion projects in response to the sharp drop in commodity prices.

But others are pushing ahead with plans to substantially boost production for decades to come, confident that new technologies will offset more stringent environmental controls, should they be imposed on the sector.

They include Suncor Energy Inc., which is building a $13.5-billion oil sands mine it says will pump 180,000 barrels a day for 50 years, starting in 2017. Imperial Oil Ltd., a unit of U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp., plans to more than double output from an existing mine and says it could add some 4.7 billion barrels of new resource to its Alberta reserves by 2030.

“The challenge we all face is how to reduce [greenhouse-gas] emissions while global demand for energy is increasing and we transition to lower carbon energy over the next several decades,” Tim McMillan, president and chief executive of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said in a statement. “While it is impossible to tie technological breakthroughs to a timetable, our industry is focused on technological innovation and have already reduced our GHG emissions per barrel by about 30 per cent since 1990.”

Mr. Harper has long resisted ambitious action on climate change His government, for instance, promised to cut carbon emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. But last fall, the federal government’s commissioner of the environment warned there’s growing evidence “the target will be missed.”

David Mc‎Laughlin, the former head of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a federal environmental agency, said ‎the commitment to phase out fossil fuels is so far off it imposes no burden of responsibility on the Harper government. The Conservatives have not made sufficient investment in technological research to generate the breakthroughs that will be needed to move beyond fossil fuels, he said.

With reports from Jeff Lewis in Calgary and Campbell Clark in Ottawa

 

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    Global Climate Talks: G7 leaders target zero-carbon economy

    Repost from The Carbon Brief

    G7 leaders target zero-carbon economy

    Simon Evans & Sophie Yeo, 08 Jun 2015, 17:00
    Third working party at G7 summit
    Third working party at G7 summit. | Bundesregierung/Kugler

    Global climate talks received a symbolic boost today, as the G7 group of rich nations threw their weight behind a long-term goal of decarbonising the global economy over the course of this century.

    The joint communique from the leaders of Japan, Germany, the US, UK, Canada, Italy and France reaffirms their commitment to the internationally agreed target of limiting warming to less than 2C above pre-industrial levels. It also reiterates their commitment to deep cuts in emissions by 2050.

    Today’s declaration goes a step further, however, backing a long-term goal of cutting global greenhouse gas emissions at the “upper end” of 40-70% below 2010 levels by 2050 and decarbonising completely “over the course of this century”.

    These milestones are broadly in line with the path to avoiding more than 2C of warming, set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year. The IPCC said this would require “near zero emissions of carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases by the end of the century”.

    The 40-70% reduction on 2010 levels by 2050 is the range for 2C set out by research organization Climate Analytics earlier this year. It also just about reaches the 70-95% range of emissions reduction by 2050 that would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5C. A review of whether to adopt this tougher temperature target is expected to conclude at UN climate talks in Bonn this week.

    Powering up Paris?

    The G7 declaration calls this year’s UN talks in Paris “crucial for the protection of the global climate” and says: “We want to provide key impetus for ambitious results”. It promises to put climate protection “at the centre of our growth agenda”.

    However, the G7 nations only account for 19% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd argued recently that the larger G20 needed to drive the planned global climate deal.

    As such, the good will of the G7 is hardly enough to guarantee success in Paris on its own. In the run-up to the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen — variously described as a “failure”, “setback” or a “disaster” — the then-G8 group of leading nations said:

    “We are committed to reaching a global, ambitious and comprehensive agreement in Copenhagen.”

    The same 2009 G8 statement set a goal of cutting emissions by “at least” 50% by 2050 – within the 40-70% range set out by the G7 today. It said developed countries should collectively cut emissions by “80% or more” compared to 1990 levels.

    G 7-group -photo
    Group photo of the G7 leaders sitting together with their outreach guests on a bench. Source: Federal Government – Bundesregierung / Bergmann.

    Zero carbon economy

    Today’s text does not repeat this promise on developed country emissions. The novel element is its backing for potentially greater global ambition in 2050, along with complete decarbonisation by the end of this century.

    Statements from NGOs — and some newspaper headlines — added their own interpretations to this new pledge. The Guardian said the leaders had “agreed on tough measures” that would cut emissions by “phasing out the use of fossil fuels”. The Financial Times headline  says “G7 leaders agree to phase out fossil fuels”.

    Greenpeace said the text signalled the fossil fuel age was “coming to an end” and that coal, in particular, must be phased out in favour of 100% renewable energy. Christian Aid made similar points, asking global leaders to follow the UK in committing to phase out unabated coal. G7 nations continue to rely on large fleets of coal-fired power stations, whose combined emissions are more than twice Africa’s total.

    The G7 language on decarbonisation this century is not specific, however, and does not promise an end to the use of coal or other fossil fuels. Instead, the language could imply reaching net-zero, where any remaining emissions are balanced by sequestration through afforestation or negative emissions technologies.

    The most likely method of achieving negative emissions, biomass with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), is controversial because it might require very large areas of land to be set aside for fast-growing trees or other biomass crops.

    The G7 “commit to” develop and deploy “innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050”. The communique doesn’t explain which technologies would be considered “innovative”. However, the use of the plural term “energy sectors” perhaps points past electricity generation towards transport, heat and beyond.

    Finance

    The declaration is thin on new financial commitments – despite some high expectations heralded by chancellor Angela Merkel’s announcement in May that Germany would double its contribution to international climate finance by 2020.

    The communique says that climate finance is already flowing at “higher levels”. All G7 countries have pledged various sums of money into the UN-backed Green Climate Fund (GCF) over the past year, although all countries’ cumulative contributions are still only around $10bn.

    This is well short of the $100bn a year that rich countries have pledged to provide every year by 2020. A significant proportion of this is expected to be channelled through the GCF. So far, there is no clear roadmap on how this money will be scaled up over the next five years – a source of contention for developing countries, which rely upon international donations to implement their own climate actions.

    In the statement, the G7 countries pledge to “continue our efforts to provide and mobilize increased finance, from public and private sources”.

    This doesn’t equate to a commitment to actually scale up finance, Oxfam’s policy lead on climate Tim Gore tells Carbon Brief:

    “They’re saying that it’s higher than it was, and now they’re going to try and maintain it at that higher level. What we were looking for was what Merkel did, and say from the level we’re at now, we’re going up towards 2020.”

    The statement also says that the G7 nations “pledge to incorporate climate mitigation and resilience considerations into our development assistance and investment decisions”. This could have particular implications for Japan, which is still investing heavily in coal plants both domestically and abroad.

    Conclusion

    Despite its shortcomings, the stronger elements of the G7 communique were not easily won. Wording on the long term goal could reverberate at the UN negotiations taking place this week in Germany, sending a message about the pressure that countries such as Japan and Canada are under to toe the climate line.

    Both nations have faced criticism for low ambition in their INDCs (still due to be finalised in Japan’s case), yet have nonetheless agreed to a statement pointing towards a decarbonised economy by the end of the century.

    Alden Meyer, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, says:

    “I think it shows the pressure that some of these laggard countries felt under from other countries and from the public in their own countries to not block the language. This is not a kumbaya moment that all of a sudden has transformed the long term goal discussion, and those who have been resisting good language in this agreement are suddenly going to turn around on decarbonisation in the long term goal. I think that’s the political significance.”

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