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G7: Leaving the Table and Filling the Void

 4 min read / 

The G7 meeting is coming to a close in Canada, an on the climate change front the result is merely a G6, as a cornered US leaves the table. At the meeting, most European countries, together with Canada and Japan, agreed to work on carbon pricing towards a “just transition” to clean energy, in line with their commitment to the Paris Agreement. The US, on the other hand, will focus on supporting countries using all available energy sources, including fossil fuel, as part of their commitment to ‘prioritise economic growth and energy security’. US President Donald Trump left early, avoiding a scheduled session on climate change. French President Macron highlighted that nothing changed with the US still maintaining their position, while the rest of the world is achieving consensus on working against climate change.

Shifting Focus

The point is that the rest of the world has to stop focusing on Donald Trump’s diplomacy and accept that they need to move on without him. More energy should be invested in building a constructive road ahead made of concrete achievement. Going forward the countries that are going to lead the pack in this fight are going to collaborate to ease their differences and find alignment in the way they consider energy resources.

The Case of Germany

A good example is Germany, who committed to phasing out coal use at the beginning of this month. The country’s phase-out strategy will be designed by a 31-member commission, the selection of whom has been rather challenging. Climate advocates have warned that the commission’s focus would be in favour of promoting economic stability as a priority over meeting international climate commitments. The fact that the commission is called ‘the Special Commission on Growth, Structural Economic Change and Employment’ confirms this suspicion. All this is in line with the commitment of the G6 to work in favour of promoting a ‘just transition’ – a framework that has been developed by the trade union movement to encompass a range of social interventions where governments commit to ensuring that workers are accompanied during the job market transformation. In Germany’s case, the bigger challenge will be to respect the country’s pledge to become “largely greenhouse gas-neutral” by 2050. Today, coal generates more than a third of Germany’s electricity and 80% of power sector emissions.

Filling the Void

The final communiqué clearly spells out that the US has left and it remains unclear whether the country will even support the broad sustainable development principles spelt out in the text. Trump’s behaviour may be hurting his citizens and the rest of the world so for many it is seen as motivation to take large-scale action. In fact, a counter-movement has lately become more vocal in the US, as companies and cities have increasingly taken on a leadership role in climate change action, particularly since Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement. Since then, investors feared that the lack of leadership at the government level would have clear and direct repercussions for the economy. Therefore, the private sector has stepped up to fill the void and has become a leader in the fight against climate change. The US had the most companies on the 2017 CDP A-List, which names the world’s businesses leading in environmental performance. Furthermore, 45 out of the 134 global corporates that have committed to sourcing 100% of their electricity from renewables through the RE100 initiative, are based in the US. Cities in the US are also doing their bit, as a total of 58 are now committed to transitioning to 100% clean, renewable energy. Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers announced last week that the city is set to become the first in the US to integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into the management of all its $8bn (€6.8bn) treasury assets, adding that the city’s pension funds, with assets of $25bn, may also follow suit.

With all the policy push Europe is getting from the top to give clear signals to the industry, the US approach to climate change does seem odd. Ultimately, the results will speak the loudest.

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