G7 Declaration: End of the age of fossil fuels?

The onus now is on states – Ireland included – to begin to formulate individual commitments to binding targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions


In a move of considerable symbolic importance the Group of Seven industrial powers has for the first time made the case that the world should phase out fossil fuel emissions this century, a victory for Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande of France, “Deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions,” its statement argued, “are required with a decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century”. The decision signals the end of the age of fossil fuels, a spokesman for Greenpeace responded.

Meeting in the picturesque Schloss Elmau in Germany over two days the leaders of the US, Germany, France, the UK, Japan, Canada and Italy committed themselves to shorter-term non-binding emission targets that should nevertheless also help set a positive tone in the preparations for the crucial UN summit in Paris at the end of the year. Then, 200 countries will come together to try to reach agreement on limiting the rise in global temperature to two degrees – temperatures have already risen by nearly one degree from pre-industrial levels – and to seal a new worldwide agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The leaders endorsed cutting greenhouse gases by 40 to 70 per cent by 2050 from 2010 levels, and promised, in a move key to winning support among developing nations, to mobilise some $100 billion a year from public and private sources by 2020 to help poorer nations tackle climate change .

Climate campaigners welcomed the commitment to the “long-term goal to decarbonise the global economy” as an important signal to business to see the future in investing in low-carbon technologies. Greenpeace said that “the vision of a 100 percent renewable energy future is starting to take shape.” But NGOs expressed scepticism about whether the G7 states would actually meet either their post-2020 emission targets or their fund-raising promises.

Such brave talk by world leaders was also not being reflected in te pre-Paris negotiations currently underway in Bonn and whose progress been described, like much of the climate agenda talks of the last two decades as “glacial”. Chief among the difficulties is agreement on the relative contributions to emission-cuts from the first and developing worlds.

The onus now is on states – Ireland included – to begin to formulate individual commitments to binding targets. “All the G7 countries have now put forward our post-2020 targets and will encourage others to do the same, ” President Obama told journalists.

The G7 leaders also pressed Greece to accept painful economic reforms to resolve its debt crisis and agreed that existing sanctions against Russia would remain in place until Moscow and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine fully respect a ceasefire negotiated in Minsk in February. It warned that sanctions would be escalated if necessary.