June 10, 2015

The G7 on Climate Change: Same Old Wine . . . Same Old Bottle?

Stephen Eule

Let’s face it: Breakthroughs aren’t what they used to be, especially when it comes to climate change negotiations. Take today’s G7 Leaders’ Declaration. Hailed as adding needed momentum to the UN-sponsored talks set to conclude a new international climate change agreement in Paris later this year, the joint communiqué amounts to little more than a reiteration of previous G7 positions on the same issue.


Let’s take a look at some of the highlights and see how they stack up against G7 statements of earlier vintage:


  • The leaders endorsed a global greenhouse gas emissions trajectory “in line with the global goal to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C,” something the group agreed to back in 2009—six years ago—in Italy and in every G7 (or G8) statement on climate change since.


  • The leaders reaffirmed their desire “to mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion a year by 2020 from a wide variety of sources, both public and private in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation,” something they did in 2013 in the United Kingdom and 2014 in Belgium, too.


  • The leaders also agreed to “shar[e] with all parties to the UNFCCC the upper end of the latest IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] recommendation [sic] of 40 to 70 % reductions by 2050 compared to 2010.” If this sounds familiar, it’s because comparable global goals are found in many earlier communiqués going back to the 2007 Heiligendamm, Germany G7 meeting during the George W. Bush Administration, when G7 leaders flirted with a 50% reduction in global emission by 2050. (It’s worth noting that IPCC’s charter bars it from making any recommendations.)


The global greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal outlined in this 2015 communiqué is in line with the global goal the European Union is advancing in the UN climate change negotiations—a 60% cut below the 2010 level by 2050. We’ve taken a look at this goal in a previous post, “The European Union’s 2050 Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Goal is Unrealistic,” and suffice it to say such a goal is well neigh impossible to meet. This is especially so when the rest of the world hasn’t shown any interest in meeting it, being justifiably more concerned with providing their people with affordable, reliable energy to lift them out of poverty. Given the competing priorities among the 190+ parties to the UN climate change negotiations, it’s little wonder these talks have entered their third decade without anything to show for it—that is, if you don’t count sky-high energy prices in Europe.


Looking at this most recent G7 climate statement, it’s safe to say wine hasn’t changed all that much, the bottle looks about the same, but there’s a new label. My guess is when all is said and done, the climate change connoisseurs won’t find 2015 to be a very good year.