G7 ministers can promise to phase out coal, decarbonise electricity

Climate ministers from the group of seven economic powers will this week consider a commitment to phase out polluting coal-fired energy by 2030 and decarbonise their energy sectors by 2035, according to a draft communiqué from the meeting read by Reuters.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, one of the largest exporters of fossil fuels, has triggered a storm among some countries to buy more non-Russian fossil fuels and burn more coal to reduce dependence on Russian gas – which feeds on the fear that the war-induced energy crisis may undermine efforts to combat climate change.

The G7’s climate, energy and environment ministers will meet in Berlin from Wednesday to Friday.

There, they will seek to agree on commitments to ensure that their short-term response to rising global energy prices and fears of fuel supply do not derail long-term commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are heating up the planet.

“We are committed to phasing out electricity from coal and heat from non-industrial coal for the year 2030,” according to a draft communiqué from their meeting. By “undiminished” is meant power plants that do not use technology to absorb their emissions.

The draft will also oblige the G7 countries to have a “zero-emission electricity sector” by 2035 and to report publicly next year on how they meet a previous G7 commitment to stop “inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.

The design may still change before it is approved on Friday. Sources familiar with the talks have said Japan and the United States have both indicated they can not support the phasing-out date for coal.

An official from Japan’s Ministry of Industry, which oversees local electricity generation infrastructure, declined to comment directly on the G7 negotiations.

The official said a proposal to phase out domestic coal-fired electricity production by 2030 would be incompatible with Japan’s domestic policy. Japan aims to reduce the share of coal in its electricity mix to 19% in 2030 from 32% in 2019.

A US official declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations.

“President Biden is taking aggressive steps to achieve the nation’s goal of a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035, and he is leading the global scene to help our allies achieve their climate ambitions,” the official said.

Coal is the fossil fuel with the highest CO2 emissions, and scientists say its global use must fall dramatically if the world is to reduce emissions fast enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

All G7 countries use coal, although Germany, Japan and the United States have a higher share than Canada, France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Germany and Canada have committed to phasing out coal by 2030, while France, Italy and the UK plan to do so sooner. The United States and Japan have not set a date, though the U.S. government’s plan to decarbonize the power grid by 2035 means coal plants will either close by that date or use carbon capture technology.

If ministers do not agree on the goals, they could be passed on to the leaders of the countries with a view to a possible agreement at a G7 meeting in June. (Reporting by Kate Abnett; Additional Reporting by Yuka Obayashi, Timothy Gardner; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Catherine Evans)

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