Steve Trent is the founder and CEO of the Environmental Justice Foundation.
In October 2021, the G7 – comprising Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – accounted for a quarter of global carbon emissions and almost 40% of the ‘Mondial economy.
As some of the wealthiest and most influential powers in the world, these nations have both a clear opportunity and an essential responsibility to recognize the increasingly negative impact of the climate crisis – and above all, they must take ahead, right now.
States have unique powers to use fiscal and monetary policy to accelerate the transition to zero carbon, and few are as powerful in this regard as the G7 countries. From nationwide renewable energy deployments to strengthening local public transport, every policy that will reduce carbon emissions needs whole-of-government support to work more efficiently – and the starting point is to stop actively harming.
At COP26, the G7 pledged to end all ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, yet this raises an obvious question: all fossil fuels are accelerating the climate crisis, so which ones are a efficient use of public money?
Creating an economic environment where emissions reductions are actively encouraged is often presented as a “cost” by those who oppose serious climate action – but nothing could be further from the truth. In the UK, slashing green energy policies have added billions to energy bills, and in Germany €65.4 billion is spent on environmentally damaging subsidies each year.
Climate action is not a cost, it is the biggest investment we can make.
Globally, renewables have never been more efficient or affordable – the cost of switching from coal to renewables has fallen 99% since 2010, and the UN has said that a switch to renewables and to low-carbon economies could be worth trillions of dollars. There is also the unquantifiable but fundamental question of the vast human suffering that the climate crisis will cause.
A stable climate, food security, clean air and water, even better public health – ending the age of fossil fuels helps provide each of these elements at once. However, how secure they can be depends on the pace and scale of how we reduce emissions.
The UN said in 2019 that we needed to reduce emissions by 7.6% to meet the 1.5 degree goal of the Paris Agreement. Lofty rhetoric promising “net zero” by 2050 and as-yet-nonexistent miracle technology won’t work here, and they actively undermine the possibility of meaningful climate action, giving polluting corporations a free pass to carry on.
At this upcoming G7 meeting in June, hosted by Germany, members must commit to better, faster and stronger climate action for a more sustainable future for us all. They must also recognize the fact that they have historically benefited from carbon-intensive economies and that their outsized carbon emissions are driving climate injustice around the world.
The nations that have done the least to cause the climate crisis are almost invariably those that suffer the worst impacts: 99% of all deaths from weather-related disasters occur in the world’s 50 least developed countries – countries that have contributed less than 1% of global carbon emissions. Those who survive are often forced to move, with 41 people forced from their homes all minute by the climate crisis since 2008.
This is a human tragedy on an almost unimaginable scale, and we know the companies, governments and world leaders who are responsible for it. The G7 can and must push for strong, legally binding targets for decisive climate action, with accountability for those who do not act. It is also clear that rich countries can and should provide strong adaptation finance, as well as loss and damage funds, to compensate those already affected by the climate crisis.
But there are changes that we simply cannot adapt to.
To gauge this, scientists use a measurement of combined heat and humidity called “wet bulb temperature.” When it gets above 35 degrees Celsius, human beings can’t stand being outside for more than a few hours – even in perfect health, in the shade and with access to water – our bodies just can’t cool down fast enough. and risk death organ failure. The frequency of dangerously high wet bulb temperatures is increasing rapidly, exceeding projections and reminding us that we cannot achieve much more through adaptation.
We can’t delay any longer. In the past few weeks alone, devastating floods have killed hundreds of people in South Africa, the sixth major flood in a few months in Queensland, Australia and a heatwave exposing more than a billion people to scorching heat. dangerous in India and Pakistan – and it will only continue.
If we want a livable and sustainable planet, ultimately the most important step is to alleviate the climate crisis by introducing a rapid transition to zero-carbon economies, while removing existing carbon from the atmosphere by restoring carbon-rich natural ecosystems.
As the most powerful and responsible countries, the G7 cannot miss its chance to start this process in earnest when it meets in June – it’s an opportunity for decisive climate action that we simply cannot. allow us to miss.