German Chancellor Angela Merkel won a key victory in her fight against climate change when the G7 agreed to adopt emission targets to limit the increase in future global temperatures. Chancellor Merkel had hoped the G7 would adopt these measures to show a united front prior to the climate summit in Paris this December.
The G7 plan aims to meet an emissions target outlined by a United Nations recommendation to reduce emissions in 2050 from 40 to 70 percent below 2010 levels. Many believe this would be enough to stop global temperatures from reaching dangerous levels.
It would, however, also come at a very high cost as many utility plants using fossil fuels would have to be shut down permanently. The cost of reducing emissions comes at an especially heavy price for developing countries, who simply cannot afford to divest from traditional forms of energy.
During the summit, Canada and Japan were the most hesitant to sign these commitments. Since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, Japan has had to rely more heavily on coal, while Canada has seen economic growth opportunities from the oil boom in the Alberta tar sands. Pressure from both President Obama and Chancellor Merkel eventually convinced the two countries to sign onto the commitments after they had worked to water down the statement.
These commitments follow five controversial years in which five of the G7 countries have increased their coal use. While pressuring developing countries to lower emissions, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan and France have burned 16 percent more coal in 2013 than in 2009. Only the United States and Canada have lowered their emissions, due to a boom in natural gas consumption. The Stockholm Environment Institute also reported that developing countries were on track to reduce emissions more than industrialized nations.
For now, the commitments come without specific plans to lower emissions. Environmental lobbyists criticized the lack of real plan, saying the countries’ failures to agree to their own immediate binding emission targets weakened the promise of reduced emissions.