G7 told not to ‘water down’ climate promises amid fears of shift back to fossil fuels

Leaders considering ‘disastrous’ push for coal and gas projects due to Ukraine crisis, campaigners warn

G7 leaders have been urged not to water down commitments on climate change amid growing fears they are set to pursue “disastrous” fossil fuel projects to ease supply problems stemming from the Ukraine war.

There are growing fears of a shift back to coal and gas investment, as the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Japan, UK, US and Canada kicked off three days of talks on the economy, energy and security issues in Bavaria on Sunday.

Germany and Italy have announced plans to revive old coal plants as gas supplies from Vladimir Putin’s Russia dwindle, while Boris Johnson has hinted at support for a new mine in Cumbria.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz – desperately trying to stave off gas rationing – has also said he wants to “intensively” pursue fossil fuel projects in Senegal to provide a new source outside of Russia.

It comes despite an agreement forged only last month by G7 climate ministers to end all public investment in overseas fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022.

Alex Scott, climate diplomacy lead at the EG3 think tank, told The Independent that “we’re getting signals that some are rowing back” on the green energy transition commitment.

“It was a big triumph getting Japan to sign up to ending investment in overseas fossil fuels,” said Ms Scott. “We’re worried Germany could now water down the language because of the urgency they feel in replacing short-term gas supplies.”

At a meeting in Berlin in May, G7 climate ministers also committed to a goal of achieving “predominantly” carbon-free electricity by 2035 – but provided no dates on the phase-out of coal.

Mr Johnson suggested earlier this week that Britain should start mining its own coal again – saying it “makes no sense” for Britain to be importing coal from abroad “when we have our own domestic resources”.

Rachel Kennerley, Friends of the Earth’s international climate campaigner, said the prime minister’s “recent enthusiasm for more fossil fuels is deeply worrying and will do nothing to tackle soaring fuel bills, boost energy security or face down the climate crisis”.

There is concern that the climate emergency will be pitted against the current energy and food crises among leaders in Bavaria, and that action on cutting carbon will lose out.

Pointing to the G7 ministers’ pledge to end overseas funding for fossil fuels, Ms Kennerley told The Independent it looked like “some leaders are considering watering down their promises to pursue more disastrous fossil fuel projects”.

Viviane Raddatz, director of climate policy at WWF Germany, added: “The temptation and pressure to find quick solutions could see Germany and other governments further deepening their long-term dependence on fossil fuel infrastructure, subsidies and commitments.”

The WWF advocate said global disruptions would only increase if the climate crisis is not tackled head-on. “This is not the time to retreat into the old fossil fuel ways,” she said.

Greenpeace said Germany and others would be making a “fatal error” to replace Russian gas, oil and coal with fossil fuel imports from other countries. “So far, the German G7 presidency has brought little progress for climate justice and the global energy transition,” said Lisa Goldner, Greenpeace Germany’s climate expert.

“There is a strong risk that the EU’s transition away from dependence on Russian energy will continue to eclipse its transition to clean energy sources,” said Susi Dennison, a director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Another crucial issue for the G7 centres around biofuels and food production. Officials from some G7 countries, including Germany and the UK, will push for temporary waivers on biofuels mandates to combat soaring food prices, according to Reuters.

Mr Johnson’s government did not confirm the report, but said a 10 per cent reduction in the use of crops for biofuels by G7 countries could lower maize prices by as much as 40 per cent and wheat prices by 10 per cent.

Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden is expected to push fellow G7 leaders to commit more to last year’s promise to scale up green infrastructure investment from “millions to trillions” to help meet the target of net zero.

Germany is also keen to push the idea of an international “climate club” – a group of countries with the highest ambitions for carbon-cutting policy – as a way of setting a new standard.

But Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, said that the G7 summit risked being a climate failure before it had even begun.

She urged G7 leaders to commit more money to developing countries to fulfil an existing promise of $100bn a year to help mitigate climate change.

“Record temperatures, extreme droughts and devastating floods are already happening, around the world, right now – a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach to the climate emergency simply won’t wash,” she added.

A UK government spokesperson said: “The UK remains committed to the agreement between 39 signatories at Cop26 to end new direct public support for the fossil fuel energy sector except in limited circumstances.”

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