Environment and energy ministers from the Group of Seven nations concluded two days of talks in northern Japan on Sunday without taking action on Canada’s push to set a timetable for phasing out coal-fired power plants.
In a 36-page communiqué after the Sapporo meeting, ministers reiterated their pledge to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and pledged to work with other countries to end unrealized new coal-fired power projects. Take steps to reduce emissions.
“We call for and will work with other countries to end new unabated coal-fired power generation globally as soon as possible and accelerate the transition to clean energy in a fair manner,” the document said.
Canada’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told Japan’s public broadcaster last week that he would like to see “strong language” in the final statement on phasing out coal.
Instead, leaders reiterated their need to “decarbonise the main electricity sector” by 2035.
In a statement on Twitter on Sunday, Guilbeault said he still welcomed the collective commitment of the G7 countries to accelerate the phase-out of coal, but also called for more urgency.
“It has never been more urgent for Canada to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2030,” the statement read.
“The science shows that countries, especially the G7, must do more, faster, to tackle climate change and get the Paris Agreement temperature targets met.”
In the 2015 Paris Agreement, 196 countries, including Canada, agreed to set national targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius on average above pre-industrial levels.
Gilber advocates for a consensus on phasing out coal by 2030, as Canada has pledged, but environment ministers from the Group of Seven nations have struggled to find common ground on the issue as countries such as Japan continue to rely on coal for power.
Instead, Japan promotes its own natural strategy, which involves using what the country calls “clean coal” where emissions are collected.
A report earlier this month by Global Energy Monitor, an organization that tracks energy projects around the world, found that G7 countries account for 15% of global coal operating capacity.
Global coal-fired power capacity grew last year, but that was largely because China opened so many new plants that it offset efforts to close plants in other parts of the world, the report said.
“The truth is that coal is the number one low-hanging fruit and needs to be replaced sooner rather than later,” said Andrew Weaver, a climate change policy researcher and professor at the University of Victoria.
Weaver, who previously led British Columbia’s Green Party, criticized the G7 for failing to offer a firm timetable for phasing out coal power, pointing instead to its 2050 net-zero pledge.
“No one at that table can be held accountable for not achieving that goal because it’s way beyond their political career, which is why it’s totally pointless,” he said.
Debora VanNijnatten, a political scientist at Wilfred Laurier University, said that while no deadline has been set globally, individual countries have pledged to follow their own domestic timelines. Table phasing out coal.
“I think it’s more important to see how individual countries deal with severe restrictions,” VanNijnatten said on Sunday.
The Sapporo talks also committed to cooperating on sensible and equitable environmental energy, water, agriculture and ocean policies.
“I believe we can prove to the international community that our commitment to climate change and environmental issues is unwavering, even in the context of the situation in Ukraine,” Japanese Environment Minister Akihiro Nishimura said after the talks.
Ministers also pledged to end plastic pollution, with the aim of reducing new plastic pollution to zero by 2040, as part of their priorities ahead of a G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima in May.
—Laura Ottoman, Canadian Press
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