The G7: Final push before Paris

17th Jul 2015

Last month, the G7 summit took place in the alluring Bavarian Alps, where leaders from the member nations (Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Japan, Canada, the US, and the European Union) convened to discuss a variety of issues, the most prominent of which included: sanctions against Russia due to escalation in Ukraine (this was the second year Russia was excluded from the G summit), global terror threats such as ISIS, Greece’s economic crisis and bailout, and climate change-related carbon reduction and mitigation strategies.

Guest invitees included the countries of Tunisia, Iraq, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, and Senegal, whose representatives arrived to discuss issues pertaining to their particular nations, such as the Ebola outbreak and Boko Haram insurgency.

An estimated 4,000-8,000 demonstrators convened for the two-day summit, far outmatched by the 17,000 police forces, rallying outside of the Schloss Elmau Grand Hotel to protest globalization, and to call for action on climate change.

During the climate portion of the talks, there was discussion of a greenhouse gas emission phase out by the end of the century. Specific, legally binding targets are being reserved for COP21 this December, but the G7 assesses progress leading up to the conference.

Brazil and the US “pledged to increase production of electricity from renewable sources to represent 20% of electricity production by 2030” and China aims to have carbon emissions peak by 2030 and then “hopes to see a nearly two-thirds reduction in so-called carbon intensity – a measure of the amount of carbon emissions per unit gross domestic product, compared to 2005 levels,” according to Time.

According to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis that tracks 32 countries, covering about 80% of global emissions, “Current policies place the world on a path towards 3.6 to 4.2°C warming above pre-industrial levels, whereas the unconditional pledges or promises that governments have made, as of early 2015, would limit warming to 2.9 to 3.1°C above pre-industrial levels. In other words, there is still a substantial gap between what governments have promised to do and the total level of actions they have undertaken to date. Both the current policy and pledge trajectories lie well above emissions pathways consistent with a 1.5°C or 2°C world.”

Another outcome of the climate talks had to do with the Green Climate Fund, created to help those developing nations, which will be worst affected by climate change, to implement climate mitigation strategies. The 2014 G7 suggested such a fund, calling for $100 billion by 2020 to help poorer nations, which are disproportionately affected by climate change, to deal with the consequences.

According to the World Resources Institute, “While more remains to be done – particularly around meeting the $100 billion goal – it is clear G7 leaders understand that delivering climate finance is a part of their role in the global community.” The G7 is made up of the wealthiest advanced economies of the world by net wealth or by GDP, according to the IMF (International Monetary Fund).

“The EU has committed to an ambitious reduction target of at least 40% in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 compared to 1990; to at least 27% of total energy consumption from renewable energy; and to at least 27% increase in energy efficiency.

Europe has shown that it is possible to act: from 1990 to 2013, EU emissions declined 19% while GDP grew 45%,” as stated by the European Commission in a press release for the summit. In 2011, Germany pledged to abandon nuclear power by 2022, intending to replace the plants with renewables or high-efficiency gas and coal-fired power plants, and has already shut half of its 17 nuclear facilities. Other EU nations have criticized this move, claiming that reaching targets without nuclear facilities would be more difficult, but after accidents at nuclear plants, some are now more open to the move.

Thus far, the lead up to the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris is looking optimistic, certainly compared to the glacial pace of action on goals previously seen. Many of the world’s leading polluters have publicized their targets and are actively working to create infrastructures that will allow for carbon reductions. Many experts are still sceptical as to how realistic the targets that have been set are, but the fact that nations are no longer shying away from the issue altogether is a positive sign.

Sarah Sakeena Marshall, B.S. Environmental Policy

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