G7 pledges put coal in the spotlight, could boost climate aid

BERLIN — G7 officials announced Friday that they aim to largely end greenhouse gas emissions from their power sector by 2035, making it extremely unlikely that the countries will burn coal for power after that date.

G7 ministers meeting in Berlin also announced a goal of “highly decarbonising roads by 2030”, meaning zero-emission vehicles will dominate sales by the end of the century.

To end the recurring conflicts between rich and poor nations during international climate negotiations, the G7 also recognized for the first time the need for additional financial assistance to developing countries to combat the loss and damage caused by global warming.

The agreements, which will be presented to leaders next month at the G7 summit in Ermau, Germany, have been largely welcomed by climate activists.

“The 2035 target to decarbonize the power sector is a real breakthrough. In practical terms, this means that countries need to phase out coal by 2030 at the latest,” said Luca Bergamaschi, head of the Rome-based campaign group ECCO.

Coal is a polluting fossil fuel that accounts for one-fifth of global human greenhouse gas emissions. While there are ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, experts say it is nearly impossible to reduce it to zero, meaning it may have to be the first fossil fuel to be phased out.

G7 members Britain, France and Italy have set themselves deadlines to stop burning coal-fired power in the next few years. Germany and Canada have a target of 2030; Japan needs more time; and the Biden administration has set a goal of ending the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation in the United States by 2035.

A common goal would force other major polluters to follow suit and build on a compromise agreement reached at last year’s UN climate summit, in which countries only committed to “phasing down” rather than “phasing out” coal – with no fixed date.

The issue is likely to be discussed later this year at a meeting of the Group of 20 nations, which account for 80 percent of global emissions.

Getting all G-20 countries to sign up to the ambitious targets set by some of the most advanced economies will be key, as countries such as China, India and Indonesia remain heavily dependent on coal.

Under pressure to increase financial aid to poor countries, G7 ministers in Berlin said they recognized “the need to further scale up action and support for fragile states, populations and vulnerable groups”.

They said this included “greater support from governments and companies in avoiding, reducing and addressing losses and damages associated with the adverse impacts of climate change”.

For years, developing countries have demanded clear commitments that they will receive funding to combat the loss and damage caused by climate change.

Rich nations, however, rejected the idea because they feared taking responsibility for the costly catastrophe caused by global warming.

“After years of obstruction, the G7 has finally realized that they need to financially support poor countries to address climate-related loss and damage,” said David Ryfisch of Germanwatch, a Berlin-based environmental campaign group.

“But that recognition is not enough, they need to put actual money on the table,” he added. “It is now up to (German Chancellor Olaf) Scholz at the Ermau summit to mobilize leaders to make major financial commitments.”

Separately, the United States and Germany signed an agreement on Friday to deepen bilateral cooperation to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy to curb climate change.

The agreement will see both countries work together to develop and deploy technologies to accelerate the clean energy transition, particularly in offshore wind, zero-emission vehicles and hydrogen.

The U.S. and Germany have also pledged to collaborate globally on ambitious climate policy and energy security.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said the goal of both countries is to reap the benefits of switching to clean energy as early as possible by creating new jobs and opportunities for businesses in the growing renewable energy market.

Such a market, for example, depends on a common criterion by which hydrogen can be classified as “green.” Officials will now work towards a common definition to ensure that hydrogen produced on one side of the Atlantic can be sold on the other.

German Energy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck said the agreement reflected the urgency of tackling global warming. Scientists say this decade will require significant global emissions reductions if the targets set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement are to be met.

“Time is running out,” Harbeck said, adding that climate change is “a challenge for our generation of politicians.”

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