Forced to wean off Russian gas, the industrial powers of the G7 are under pressure to keep their climate commitments, during their summit in Bavaria, despite the specter of a comeback of the most polluting fossil fuels.
• Read also: Thousands of protesters march against the G7 in Germany
Host of the summit organized from Sunday in a spectacular natural setting, at the foot of the Alps, Germany alone embodies this dilemma: the first European economy has just announced an increased use of coal to compensate for the drop in gas deliveries Russian.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz, however, assures that the G7 remains committed to the Paris agreement, which plans to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
The final declaration of the G7 of Elmau will thus be scrutinized, in particular a possible questioning by Olaf Scholz of the commitment to no longer finance projects linked to gas or coal by 2022, and of an agreement aimed at substantially decarbonize electricity sectors by 2035.
That would be a “real setback,” warns Alden Meyer, a principal partner at climate policy think tank E3G. “Scholz could go down in history as the chancellor who backtracks on climate.”
Germany could eventually suffer from a “lack of credibility”, warns Susanne Droege, climate policy analyst at the German Institute for International Affairs and Security (SWP).
On Saturday, thousands took to the streets of Munich to urge leaders to do more.
In a world where the impact of the climate crisis is already being felt, with devastating floods, rising waters and destructive droughts, the G7 is expected at the turn, in particular to formulate new pledges of financing for help the poorest countries.
But the chances of a decisive breakthrough are slim at a summit dominated by Ukraine.
“Elmau is located in the mountains, we will certainly not move mountains there,” the Chancellor himself admitted on the eve of the talks.
“But we can make important decisions,” he says.
“Before the war, there was a clear intention, including on the part of Germany, to achieve concrete results in terms of climate finance, but this no longer seems to be the case today”, laments Ms. Droge.
Climate activists argue that soaring energy prices and the phasing out of Russian oil, coal and gas, to which the G7 has committed, is a unique opportunity to accelerate the development of renewable energy.
But in the meantime Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria are returning to fossil fuels to fill the gaps.
Strong signals are however necessary before COP 27, organized in Egypt in November, underline the climate actors.
G7 climate talks should, environmental activists say, focus on helping vulnerable countries already suffering the consequences of climate change.
“In the Horn of Africa, a terrible drought is plunging more than 18 million into food insecurity,” warned Vanessa Nakate, a young Ugandan activist, before the summit. “We are tired of empty promises. We need the G7 countries to put money on the table for the losses and damages” already suffered, she said at a press conference.
Mr. Scholz himself wants to launch a “climate club” which would bring together countries agreeing to common rules to avoid competitive disadvantages.
This would include agreeing carbon pricing standards or uniform regulations for green hydrogen. But at this stage, neither Japan nor the United States intends to introduce a national carbon price.
The G7 should also reaffirm the need for significant public and private investment in clean energy infrastructure in developing countries.
Rich countries have promised to devote 100 billion dollars a year from 2020 to help these countries adapt to climate change, but this promise has not been kept.
Ditto for the annual increase in emission reduction targets, a commitment made at the Glasgow COP in 2021, but remained a dead letter.