Source: AFP via Getty Images

G-7 Calls for Zero Fossil-Fuel Emissions by End of 21st Century

Some of the world’s richest nations threw their weight behind a plan to stamp out fossil-fuel emissions by the end of the century in an unprecedented show of unity on climate change.

The Group of Seven is pushing to “decarbonize,” meaning any polluting gases from burning oil, gas or coal must be canceled out by carbon-capture or other technologies by 2100. Nations should aim for emission cuts near 70 percent of 2010 levels by mid-century, the G-7 said Monday in a statement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the 2015 G-7 Summit in Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the 2015 G-7 Summit in Germany.
Photographer: Robert Michael/AFP via Getty Images

“Deep cuts in global greenhouse-gas emissions are required with a decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century,” the group said following a summit in Germany hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The G-7 has been under pressure to act on climate change after the world’s biggest polluter, China, took steps to curb its carbon output. The group’s solidarity on the issue is significant ahead of a United Nations meeting in Paris in December, where more than 190 nations will aim to broker the first global emissions-reduction deal that’s binding for all countries.

“This long-term decarbonization goal will make evident to corporations and financial markets that the most lucrative investments will stem from low-carbon technologies,” said Jennifer Morgan, global director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute in Washington. “Today G-7 leaders have stepped up to the plate with serious climate commitments.”

Clean Energy

Those commitments include expanding renewable energies in Africa and getting 400 million people access to insurance against the negative effects of climate change, the G-7 said.

The group also called for greater efforts to provide climate aid. Wealthy nations and private investors agreed in 2009 to hand $100 billion a year to developing nations by 2020 to nudge them toward greener development. Few rich countries have set out exactly how they will reach that goal.

Sishen solar park in Kathu, South Africa.
Sishen solar park in Kathu, South Africa.
Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

“The course is right, but more speed, ambition and specific actions are needed,” said Samantha Smith, who follows the UN climate talks for the environmental group WWF. “Developing countries are ready to move fast and far on renewables, but they need finance and technology from rich countries to do it.”

The G-7 leaders reiterated their commitment to eliminate “inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies” and said they aim to make the UN’s Green Climate fund, which will channel aid to projects in developing countries, fully operational by the end of the year.

Limit Warming

Envoys at the December summit in Paris will work on an agreement to limit global warming since the Industrial Revolution to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). Previous UN gatherings have been hobbled by a lack of consensus among large polluters such as the U.S. and China.

China is the world's biggest polluter.
China is the world's biggest polluter.
Photographer: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern said Monday that China’s output of greenhouse gases is set to peak in 2025 -- five years earlier than the country forecast -- and then start falling. The nation’s progress in reducing emissions is crucial to the success of global climate-protection efforts because it spews about a quarter of all heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

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