G7 Review – policies and promises

G7 Review – policies and promises

In early June, the G7 Summit hosted in the UK where the Presidents and Prime Ministers of what’s considered the seven strongest democratic economies met to discuss global issues. Of course the two items on top of the agenda were vaccines – relating to the current pandemic, as well as the climate crisis. What came out of the talks was, unsurprisingly, more promises paying lip service to the climate crisis.

It’s as if everyone knows what needs to be done, and global leaders are stepping forward and promising it will be done. Yet if you review the commentaries made by leading climate experts, they’re not overly impressed. While world leaders may be discussing the climate crisis, it doesn’t appear to go beyond identifying the problem, and that’s not saying much because we all know about the problem. At this point we need to know what actions are going to make a difference. What are the biggest causes and what’s being done about them?   

What are meaningful targets in terms of carbon emissions?

The Paris Climate accord saw nations from around the world agree to try prevent global warming exceeding 2 degrees centigrade and targeting less than 1.5 degrees centigrade. Net zero targets have been set by countries on an individual level and are primarily based on 1990 levels. As you can see from the graph below, it was only from 1900’s onward that the exponential rise in carbon emissions occurred, with the United States being the biggest contributor. However, it all kicked off 100 years earlier in the UK with the industrial revolution. For most of the world to achieve net-zero targets equal to 1990 will make a significant impact, what about all the carbon emissions before that? And what about all the investment made since the Paris Accord was signed? Has it really been diverted away from fossil fuels?

 


A recent analysis of investment firms in the UK, shows that while many have set up policies to align with net zero targets, very little finance has been shifted to align with these goals. The majority of money remains invested in high carbon emission projects. This highlights that despite policies and promises, unless the people directing the funds accelerate their investment in renewable low carbon projects, we haven’t a hope of coming close to reaching net zero targets.

Fossil fuels and the developing world

Another ambitious project that was announced at the G7 was the UK’s plan to invest in infrastructure development in developing countries. While this may sound like a positive solution for driving low carbon infrastructure development, many feel that the UK is far too late to the party. China, for example, has been investing in Africa’s infrastructure development for decades with bilateral agreements giving them access to mining rights and minerals including coal. What can the UK offer that developing countries don’t already have in place? And can they compete with what China is offering? Many feel that they cannot and the UK’s efforts will be an exercise in futility. Additionally, given the past year, would UK PLC be better placed focusing this investment internally?

One of the biggest challenges with infrastructure development in developing countries is not the initial building, but the maintenance. Most developing countries are on the receiving end of extreme weather including heat waves and flooding which causes severe damage to roads and buildings. Developing countries don’t have the set up or funding to repair the damage. Not beyond temporary superficial repairs. If the G7 nations really wish to make a positive global impact, perhaps they should start a little closer to home with a far more aggressive and targeted approach to reducing carbon emissions and eliminating waste.  After all it’s the carbon emissions from the developed world that is primarily responsible for the climate crisis and are some of the biggest producers of waste.

Closer to home

Big promises and big targets are something to aspire too – and they’re needed because accomplishing a significant reduction in carbon emissions is a major task. But perhaps to get there we should be starting closer to home, quite literally. By, once again, providing incentives for solar installations in homes that makes it affordable for homeowners in the short and medium term. Why doesn’t every new home have to have solar panels fitted?  Agreeing better feed-in tariffs to increase adoption rather than chasing profits would help, again. By ensuring homes are better insulated which reduces the need for heating and cooling. By improving waste collection and recycling locally and investing in sector development. It’s a complex challenge with no simple solution, so will the G7 promises amount to anything?