The Group of 7 (G7) leading industrialized nations this week called for global greenhouse-gas emissions to be reduced by around 70% by 2050, and for the world economy to be decarbonized by the end of the twenty-first century. These twin goals were issued in a communiqué at the conclusion of the group’s meeting at Schloss Elmau in Krün, Germany, on 8 June, alongside a suite of promises to help developing nations to provide their citizens with clean energy, jobs, financial security and food.
To the credit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of the host nation, the commitments surpass all of the G7’s previous promises. Most notably, the group has formally acknowledged — and quantified — the scale of the industrial renaissance that will be required to keep global average temperature increase to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. It has provided concrete and measurable targets that should help to make clear where precious capital and human resources should be invested — not just for other governments, but also for businesses. It should also make clear where resources should not be expended. The G7 nations renewed their pledge to end “inefficient” fossil-fuel subsidies.
The nations also reaffirmed a commitment, made in Copenhagen in 2009, to increase climate aid for developing countries to US$100 billion per year by 2020, including both public and private financing. The communiqué calls for an expansion of renewable energy in developing countries, and further work to help the most vulnerable countries to prepare for climate change. In particular, the G7 pledged to ensure that 400 million people in developing nations have access to climate-risk insurance, to mitigate the effects of disasters such as droughts and storms.
The timing is good. Nations are wrapping up the latest round of climate talks in Bonn this week, with the aim of advancing a climate agreement to be signed in Paris later this year. Policy-makers have their work cut out if they are to sign a meaningful accord, and the G7 meeting represents a small step in the right direction.
But the world is still waiting for action that will give these targets credibility. Countries should adopt the G7 communiqué’s emissions targets and look for ways to expand climate-related investment in the developing world, where emissions are poised to rise quickly if no intervention is made. The communiqué rightly points out that engagement by the private sector will be crucial to meeting these goals, but it is up to policy-makers to lay down the rules of the road.
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