Article: Vow to Climate Change at the G7 Summit

Following Russia’s violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the G7 heads of state and government decided on 24 March 2014 in The Hague Declaration not to attend the planned G8 summit in Sochi in June 2014 under the Russian Presidency, and to suspend the G8 as a format until further notice. They noted that it was not possible to have meaningful discussion within the G8 at present.

Instead, the G7 met for the first time since 1998 without Russia at a summit on 4 and 5 June 2014 in Brussels. Since then the G7 process has been continued. This decision of the G7 underscores the fact that it is a community of shared values which will not tolerate violations of international law.Figure01

The membership includes: Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, the United States of America, and Canada. The European Commission is also represented at all meetings.

The Group of Seven is an assembly of the leaders of advanced industrial nations who come together to further common interests, across a range of economic, security and development priorities. German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted the summit in Schloss Elmau, south of Munich on 7-8 June 2015.

The G7 agreed to limit the increase in global temperatures to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a victory for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wanted the group of wealthy countries to present a united front ahead of a climate summit in Paris this December:

  • “Urgent and concrete action is needed to address climate change,” said a statement issued by the group, ending a summit held in the Bavarian Alps. The plan calls for meeting a United Nations recommendation for reducing emissions in 2050 from 40 to 70 percent below 2010 levels. That may be enough to prevent global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels.Here is a fact about the temperatures.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the world experienced its hottest year on record in 2014.  This latest record marks the 38th consecutive year that the mean global temperature was above the twentieth century average. Figure02

 Average global temperatures over the last decade were warmer than any time in at least the last 1,300 years:

  • 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded globally, breaking the previous record set in 2010;
  • 14 of the last 16 years have been the warmest on record globally, while it has been more than 100 years since the coldest year on record (1911);
  • Not only was the average annual temperature in 2014 the warmest on record globally, but the year also witnessed a record warm summer and fall and six record-warm months, more than any other year on record; and
  • December 1984 was the last month when average global temperatures were less than the twentieth century average.  That means that no one younger than 30 years old has been alive during a month when global temperatures were below average.G7 leaders have also gestured the need for action with a call for greenhouse gas emissions cuts and a move towards a low carbon future.

If GHG emissions continue unabated, we could exceed the threshold of being able to limit global temperatures from rising 2°C above pre-industrial levels (An internationally agreed upon target) in just two decades.  Failing to limit warming to 2°C would expose the world to some of the more disastrous consequences of climate change:

Additionally scientists estimate that global temperatures will continue to rise throughout the remainder of the century as a result of continued GHG emissions stemming from human activities. The longer we delay reducing GHG emissions, the greater the magnitude of warming will be.  At the same time, the impacts of climate change have already become “widespread and consequential” throughout the world.  In a warmer world, the trend of increasing extreme weather and climate events is expected to continue.

Here is a fact about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  The scientific consensus states that warming over the last half century is largely caused by manmade climate change:

Figure03

Previous estimates showed that carbon dioxide (CO2) causes a maximum warming effect within 40 to 50 years of being emitted, but research published in 2014 found that this peak occurs within only 10 years. Therefore, future generations — as well as those who choose to take action today — can reap the benefits of near-term, comprehensive emission reductions;

  • Due mainly to the burning of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution (i.e., 1861–1880), levels of CO2 in the atmosphere exceeded 400 ppm (parts per million) for the first time in recorded history in 2013.  In 2014, the first monthly average above 400 ppm was recorded. These levels of atmospheric CO2 are higher than any Earth has experienced in more than 1,000,000 years; and
  • According to the NCA released in 2014, the acidity of ocean surface waters has increased by 30 percent over the past 250 years as a result of absorbing 560 billion tons of CO2, threatening numerous marine ecosystems.  Oceans currently absorb about 25 percent of CO2 emissions each year, and the rate of change in ocean acidity is now 50 times faster than any known historical change

.The G7 has called for a transformation of electricity generation towards clean sources by 2050. They said fossil fuel emissions should not be allowed in any sector of the economy by the end of the century.

The world’s leaders have effectively signaled the end of the fossil fuel era that has driven economies since the Industrial Revolution. This is a seismic shift – and an acknowledgement from the leaders, prompted by Angela Merkel, of the scale of the threat from climate change.

Here are some facts about fossil fuel:  Fossil fuels are formed by the anaerobic decomposition of remains of organisms including phytoplankton and zooplankton that settled to the sea (or lake) bottom in large quantities under anoxic conditions, millions of years ago.

Fossil fuels are oil, coal and natural gas. In 2006 primary sources of energy consisted of petroleum 36.8 percent; coal 26.6 percent; and natural gas 22.9 percent, amounting to an 86 percent share for fossil fuels in primary global energy production:

  • Crude oil is a smelly, yellow-to-black liquid and is usually found in underground areas called reservoirs. Scientists and engineers explore a chosen area by studying rock samples from the earth. Measurements are taken, and, if the site seems promising, drilling begins;
  • Coal is a readily combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock normally occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds; and
  • Natural gas is a gas consisting primarily of methane. It is found associated with fossil fuels, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is created by methanogenic organisms in marshes, bogs, and landfills.Figure04

Here is another fact: When fossil fuels are burned carbon and hydrogen react with oxygen in air to CO2 and water (H2O). During this reaction heat is released which further amplifies the reaction.

It should be kept in mind that CO2 emissions are those stemming from the burning of fossil fuels and the manufacture of cement. They include CO2 produced during consumption of solid, liquid, and gas fuels and gas flaring. Here are some facts about CO2 based on a report, Trends in Global CO2 Emissions (2014), published by PBL Netherlands Environmental assessment Agency:

  • Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and from industrial processes (Cement and Metal Production) increased in 2013 to the new record of 35.3 billion tonnes (Gt), which is 0.7 Gt higher than last year’s record;
  • This represents a moderate increase of 2 percent in 2013 compared to 2012 is a continuation of last year’s trend and of the slowdown in the annual emissions growth;
  • The actual increase of 2012 and  compared to 2011 was 0.6 Gt or 1.7 percent (excluding leap year correction) and both are about half the average annual growth rate of 1.1 Gt or 3.8 percent since 2003 (excluding the 2008–2009 recession years);
  • The average annual emission increase in the 1995–2002 period (after the large decline in energy consumption in the former Soviet Union countries) was about 1.2 percent or 0.4 Gt CO2 per year;
  • With the global economic growth of 3.4 percent and 3.1 percent, in 2012 and 2013 respectively, a further decoupling of the global economic and emission trends can be observed;
  • This decoupling is consistent with the increasing service sector share (growing by 1.5 percent and 1.8 percent in 2012 and 2013 on average in middle income countries, including China) to the overall gross domestic product (GDP), at the expense of more energy-intensive industrial activities;
  • The global increase in CO2 emissions largely reflects the increase in fossil energy consumption, driven mainly by emerging economies with a steadily increasing energy use over the past decade;
  • Regionally, annual CO2 emission trends show large differences both in magnitude and underlying causes, complicating the evaluation of the robustness of observed trends; and
  • Comparison of the trends in the energy mix and of the resulting emissions in major emitting regions reveals different approaches adopted by different countries towards a low-carbon economy and society.Figure05 The top 3 emitting regions in 2013, together accounting for more than half (55 percent) of the total global CO2 emissions, are:
    • China – 10.3 billion tonnes CO2 or 29 percent.  China increased its CO2 emissions by 4.2 percent in 2013, compared to 2012, which is much lower than the annual increases of about 10 percent over the last decade, but higher than the increase of 3.4 percent in 2012;
    • The United States – 5.3 billion tonnes CO2 or 15 percent.  In 2013, the United States increased its CO2 emissions for the first time in five years by 2.5 percent, compared to 2012.  In 2013, the USA increased its CO2 emissions for the first time in five years by 2.5 percent compared to 2012;
    • The European Union (EU28) – 3.7 billion tonnes CO2 or 11 percent.  The EU28’s CO2 emissions, which started to decrease in 2006, continued to decrease by 1.4 percent in 2013, and at a larger rate than in 2012; and
    • Other the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries also mainly show decreases or minor increases below 2 percent. Russia’s emissions decreased by 0.8 percent. In contrast, CO2 emissions in emerging economies mainly increased in 2013, compared to 2012 (e.g. in India by 4.4 percent, in Brazil by 6.2 percent and in Indonesia by 2.3 percent).Figure06

It was rcognized by the G7 leader that all the nations of the world need to play an active role when it comes to reducing global CO2 emissions and halting global warming. Industrialised countries have a particular responsibility in that regard, as it is they that have been responsible for the majority of environmentally harmful emissions up to now. At the G7 Summit in Brussels in June 2014, the G7 group of industrialised nations reaffirmed their pledge to mobilise 100 billion US dollars from public and private sources each year for climate financing from 2020 onwards.

The G7 also accepted that rich nations would need to help poorer countries – especially in Africa – develop using clean technology, and adapt to inevitable changes to climate in the future. They have promised to address risks from weather disasters that may become more serious as the climate heats and they say they will help with insurance and protection for the poorest.

But they will be pushed by developing nations to show they are making good their previous promise of £100bn in climate finance by 2020.

The leaders also promised to strengthen cooperation over energy efficiency and work together with other interested countries to co-ordinate clean energy research, development and demonstration – as urged by the UK’s climate ambassador David King.

The resolutions will feed into the meeting of world leaders to seal a global deal on climate later this year in Paris. A positive outcome there is now more likely. But huge questions remain. Some scientists and environmentalists accused the G7 of reckless complacency by suggesting that we can afford to burn fossil fuels at all past 2050.Figure07On the other hand there are worries from some developing countries about the suggestion that coal should be phased out. It is not clear how poor nations are to be persuaded to ignore the cheapest fuel available in their attempts to develop. The cost of solar energy is plummeting, and is now competitive with coal in some parts of the world, but it has not yet shown that it can power industries on a large scale.

Germany will honour its commitments. And they have also set the bar high with and for the G7 by committing to two concrete initiatives, one on expanding renewable energies in Africa and one on climate risk insurance schemes. Here is the statement made by the Chancellor:

  • Together with the G7 and our partner countries we want to provide up to an additional 400 million poor people with insurance against the risks of climate change by 2020. Those who have contributed least to climate change are the ones who are feeling its effects the most, be it severe flooding, droughts or heavy storms; and
  • The plan to be pursued, in cooperation with the African Union, is to add 10 gigawatts to Africa’s installed capacity of renewable energy generation by 2020. That is the equivalent of 10 large coal-fired power plants. African countries have ample renewable energy resources: sun and wind power are available in abundance; and with prices for photovoltaic and wind systems falling, these technologies can compete with plants fired by fossil fuels.

By providing climate risk insurance to poor people in developing countries who are especially at risk from climate change, Germany and the G7 are making an important contribution to a future climate agreement.

According to recent estimates, only about 100 million people in developing countries and emerging economies are currently covered by climate risk insurance. The G7 initiative on climate risk insurance aims to increase the number of people covered by this kind of insurance by 400 million by 2020. The initiative will be implemented in close partnership between the G7 states, developing countries and emerging economies.Figure08

Chancellor Merkel was instrumental in the overall success of the summit. She applied diplomatic pressure to ensure that all the G7 countries fell into line. Working together with French President François Hollande and US President Barack Obama, she managed to overcome Canadian and Japanese doubts.

Japan initially resisted Merkel’s push for bankrolling climate action, because it uses its climate finance to support exports of coal technology to developing countries, according to Gallagher. Japan has become much more reliant on coal, which has filled the country’s energy gap after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Canada, which has huge investments in controversial and highly polluting tar sands development in Alberta, started the summit as a potential hold-out, but government and NGO sources told POLITICO that its position softened under pressure from Obama.

The fact of the matter is that “Climate change has become more and more of a priority for the chancellor — much of her public commentary in recent days has been about the issue,” said Jennifer Morgan, global director of the climate change program at the World Resources Institute.

Germany’s ambitious energy transformation aims to move the country to at least 80 percent of electricity from renewable energy source by 2050. Germany already gets nearly 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, up from just under 7 percent thirteen years ago. That is no small feat. Germany is a manufacturing powerhouse: It’s the world’s fifth largest economy and third largest exporter.

Germany’s commitment to renewables has helped create jobs and drive economic opportunities. Since 2004, clean energy investments grew by 122 percent. Jobs in the renewable energy sector have more than doubled to around 380,000 jobs in the same timeframe.

The world faces rising risks from fossil fuels. Yet, they are expected to remain the dominant energy source globally, supported by subsidies of more than $523 billion, according to the latest IEA World Energy Outlook . Demand for these finite resources continues to grow — likely by one-third by 2035 — and harvesting them is in many cases growing more complicated and expensive. Fossil fuels are the leading driver of climate change, which is bringing increasing threats to people, businesses and economies.

Germany’s success points the way to a very different future. The country’s energy transformation can be traced back to 1991, with its first feed-in-tariff — a policy that supports renewable energy investment by offering long-term contracts to energy producers. In 2000, Germany expanded this policy into the more comprehensive Renewable Energy Act . For homeowners, farmers and businesses, this policy meant that they could invest in a wind turbine or buy solar panels confident that they would get a steady return on their investment.

Here is another perspective on Germany’s success:

Germany’s lead on climate change means it grapples with economic issues which arise from moving away from traditional energy sources. Caroline Copey thinks the country’s goal of cutting GHG emissions 40 percent by 2020 is in jeopardy. Union IG BCE says cutbacks in the coal plant sector could put 100,000 jobs at risk. The economics ministry is proposing to soften the CO2 emissions cuts which were approved in December’s climate package, but a final decision is delayed until this summer. According to Copey, concerns about the economic effects of environmental reform could undermine Merkel’s plan to encourage G7 nations to commit to tough reform goals.

Still, Germany is the leader on environmental policy and climate protection achievement. The country’s successes underscore the need for smart, aggressive action by world leaders to implement environmental policy which may still save human life on Earth.

Germany, with the firm backing of neighbor France, is linking climate change to global security following a report prepared for G7 foreign ministers in April that urged all countries to place climate change at the heart of their foreign policy. “Climate change is the ultimate threat multiplier: it will aggravate already fragile situations and may contribute to social upheaval and even violent conflict,” said the report by the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

Climate finance refers to financing channeled by national, regional and international entities for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects and programs. They include climate specific support mechanisms and financial aid for mitigation and adaptation activities to spur and enable the transition towards low-carbon, climate-resilient growth and development through capacity building, R&D and economic development.[1] The term has been used in a narrow sense to refer to transfers of public resources from developed to developing countries, in light of their UN Climate Convention obligations to provide “new and additional financial resources,” and in a wider sense to refer to all financial flows relating to climate mitigation and adaptation.

The reality is that Climate change is causing more and more natural disasters, for instance floods and droughts. The poorest people are the ones who contribute least to climate change, yet they are also the ones suffering the most and the ones who are least capable to take any precautions. The international climate agreement that is to be negotiated and adopted in Paris in November/December 2015 will set key priorities in regard to global climate protection. In the context of Germany’s G7 Presidency the BMZ has been cooperating with the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) to provide impetus for the decisive phase of the international climate negotiations.

Almost 200 nations will gather in Paris from the end of November to try and agree on a new worldwide agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions and limit the rise in average global temperatures to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

At the same time, Pope Francis is calling for swift action to protect the Earth and fight global warming, according to a leaked draft of the pontiff’s encyclical. He puts much of the blame for global warming on human activities, mentioning the continual loss of biodiversity in the Amazonian rainforest and the melting of Arctic glaciers among other examples. The draft also says that developing countries are bearing the brunt of the “enormous consumption” of some of the richest. The pontiff calls on all humans – not just Roman Catholics – to prevent the destruction of the ecosystem before the end of the century and to establish a new political authority to tackle pollution.

Resources:

  1. The Federal Government – G7 Summit;
  2. Generation Change – Will G7 Summit would Leaders Commit to Climate Change Action;
  3. World Resources Institute – 2014: A Year of temperature Records and Landmark Climate Findings;
  4. BBC News – G7: End of Fossil Fuel Era;
  5. PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency: Trends in Global CO2 emissions – 2014 Report;
  6. Politico – G7 to Limit Global Warming to below 2 Degrees;
  7. G7 Germany 2015 – Outcomes of the Elmau Summit;
  8. The Grid – US Energy Policy should take a Lesson from Germany’s Energiewende: and
  9. Wikipedia – Climate Financing.

 

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