AS WORLD leaders of the G7 get ready to meet in Cornwall this month, the charity Tearfund reports that, despite pledges of a green recovery from the pandemic, G7 nations have spent more on fossil fuels than on clean energy since the beginning of last year.
As huge amounts of government stimulus funding are being spent to kick-start economies, this has been seen as a unique opportunity to invest in decarbonising global energy systems and accelerating the transition from fossil fuels.
Among the many leaders who have promised to “build back better” is Boris Johnson, who, as Prime Minister, will host not just the G7 this year, but also oversee the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
The report, Cleaning Up Their Act? G7 fossil fuel investments in a time of green recovery, reveals that, although the UK has announced new green policies such as a 2030 petrol-car phase-out date, and ending its support for overseas fossil fuels, it made the G7’s highest commitments per capita to fossil fuels. Only four per cent of this support had “green strings” attached.
Tearfund says that this shows the tension between the Government’s green ambitions and Treasury spending. The charity’s head of advocacy, Paul Cook, said: “Every day, Tearfund witnesses the worsening consequences of the climate crisis for communities around the world: farmers’ crops failing; floods and fires engulfing towns and villages; families facing an uncertain future. Choices made now by the G7 countries will either accelerate the transition towards a climate-safe future for all, or jeopardise efforts to date to tackle the climate crisis.
“The G7 nations rank among the most polluting countries in the world, representing only a tenth of the global population but almost a quarter of CO² emissions. Their actions can set the scene for success or failure at the UN climate talks being hosted by the UK in November.”
Of the 11 countries represented at the G7 summit, which include the guest nations Australia, India, South Korea, and South Africa, eight have made their plans greener over the past year. Only four — Canada, France, Germany, and the UK — have so far approved plans that will cause more environmental good than harm, according to the report.
Among their recommendations, Tearfund says that G7 countries should adopt a “Do no harm” principle by ending any support for the production of fossil fuels and by attaching significant “green strings” to any remaining support for fossil-fuel-intensive sectors. They should also dedicate a minimum of 40 per cent of total Covid-19 recovery spending to green policies. The current figure is 22 per cent.
Elsewhere, a Dutch court last week ordered the oil giant Shell to cut its carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, to ensure that it was in line with the Paris agreement. The landmark ruling sent shockwaves through the energy industry, and will have widespread implications for fossil-fuel companies and their investors, including the Church of England Pensions Board, which, last week, backed Shell’s much less ambitious “energy transition” plan.
Responding to the news, the chief responsible-investment officer for the Pensions Board, Adam Matthews, said: “We very clearly set out at Shell’s AGM our requirements of the company in terms of the remaining steps we expect them to take by 2023. We also stated that the company should review its targets in line with the new International Energy Agency net-zero scenario that was released on the day of the AGM. We expect this will require the company to further increase ambition of their short-term target possibly in line with what the court has also recommended by 2030.”
James Buchanan, of Operation Noah’s campaign Bright Now, said: “The Netherlands court ruling is a huge moment that clearly highlights that Shell’s plans are Paris-defiant, not Paris-compliant. Given that Shell continues to oppose cutting its emissions in line with the Paris agreement targets, the time has come for the Church of England to divest.”