G7 pledges to end coal—but only inclusive action will make a real climate impact

Energy ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) met in Turin, Italy, on the 29th and 30th of April for the first time since the United Nation climate summit in Dubai. Two days of discussion at the Climate, Energy, and Environment Ministerial meeting resulted in a series of shared commitments to address climate change and energy security. The 35-page long joint communiqué includes a historic pledge to phase out coal power plants by 2035.


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The commitment of “phasing out coal by 2035 or on a timeline consistent with the 1.5 temperature limit” marks a further step in the direction indicated last year by the UN climate summit, known as COP28, to reduce the use of fossil fuels, of which coal is the most polluting. Mentioning the IEA’s Net-Zero Roadmap report, G7 countries say that “phase-out of unabated coal is needed by 2030s in advanced economies and by 2040 in all the other regions, and that no new unabated coal power plant should be built.” This represents the first agreement on a timeline for phasing out coal after the initiative had previously failed due to opposition by some members. However, it should be noted that, despite the positive step towards a common goal, by using the term “unabated” in the communication, members of the G7 leave open a potential path for the use of coal beyond the indicated timeline. 

In addition to the importance of ending coal reliance, it is now widely recognized that the success of the energy transition is linked to a technology-inclusive approach both for reaching climate neutrality and strengthening energy security. The communication of the G7 promotes members’ increasing use of diverse low-carbon energy technologies including renewable energy, energy efficiency, hydrogen, carbon management, storage, nuclear energy, and fusion.

Energy ministers fully committed to the “implementation of the global goal of tripling installation of renewable energy capacity by 2030 to at least 11 terawatts (TW)” and to “double the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030 to 4%,” signaling the intention to create a strong connection with COP28 pledges.

On energy storage, G7 members agreed to a global goal in the power sector of 1500 gigawatts (GW) in 2030, a more than six-fold increase from 2022. Introducing this target for storage is very important to support renewable implementation and ultimately reach the installation capacity target set in Dubai.

The communication highlights the importance for countries to reduce reliance on civil nuclear technologies from Russia and commits to strengthening the resilience of the nuclear supply chain. Countries opting for nuclear energy would work to deploy next generation nuclear reactors.

Fusion made it in the final text with a strong emphasis on the potential of this technology to provide a lasting solution to the global challenges of climate change and energy security in the future, marking an important addition to the G7 joint communication, since in the Hiroshima Communique, fusion was not mentioned.

In order to implement these targets and scale technologies, the G7 countries this year also reaffirmed their commitment to jointly mobilize $100 billion per year until 2025 and their intention to scale up public and private finance. “We stress the need to accelerate efforts to make finance flow consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development,” and “we acknowledge that such efforts involve the alignment of the domestic and international financial system.” Attention is now directed toward the upcoming G7 finance meeting, the G20 in Brazil, and the “finance COP” in Azerbaijan.

Finally, convergence and cooperation with countries outside the G7 will play a crucial role in the success of the transition. The joint communication acknowledges that developing countries represent “an important partner in the just energy transition” and recognizes “the great potential of the African continent in becoming a global powerhouse of the future.”

At this year’s energy ministerial meetings, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Minister on Energy Elnur Soltanov (representing the 2024 COP29 presidency), Brazil’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Marina Silva (representing the 2024 G20 presidency), and Kenya’s Principal Secretary on Energy Alex K. Wachira, participated along with the G7 partners. This approach shows recognition of the fundamental role that inclusivity plays in a successful transition and the willingness to create strong synergies with the upcoming multilateral forums.

It would be difficult to overstate just how critical pragmatism and convergence are to the energy transition. But this message, in addition to being successfully incorporated in the communication was further reinforced during the Future of Energy Summit, a half-day event hosted by the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, Politecnico di Torino, and World Energy Council Italy as part of Planet Week on the sidelines of last weekend’s G7 ministerial meeting. Experts and speakers at the Summit emphasized the need to strengthen a technology-inclusive, not exclusive, approach and cooperation among countries.

The IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE) envisages that by 2030, advanced economies would end all power generation by unabated coal-fired plants, making the new G7 historic commitment unfit for purpose. However, the overall success of the transition will not be determined by pledges, but more so by the will of countries to transform pledges into action. Whether G7 countries will be able to succeed in the energy transition will depend on their capacity to create resilient clean energy supply chains, implement diversified energy mixes, promote collaboration with developing countries, scale up public and private finance, and it seems like many steps are being taken in the right direction. 

Elena Benaim is a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center.

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