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G7 2016
Image: Palazzo Chigi

G7 – too little too late for the environment

The scientific evidence is clear enough.  Two degrees of global warming is now locked-in.  The best we could do now is to take action to avoid overshooting this dangerous upper limit.  Some scientists suggest we are looking at 4-5 degrees of warming; others say we could even reach 5-6 degrees.  At these temperatures, all bets are off about how quickly we will see catastrophic changes that had not been expected until the end of the century.

Any five year old could tell you what needs to be done.  If you face runaway climate change because you are burning fossil fuels, you need to stop burning them.  It is that simple.  What was agreed in Paris last year is that the developed Western economies would leave fossil fuels in the ground.  Developing countries like China and India would be given a period of grace to allow them to switch away from renewables without crashing their economies.  However, almost as soon as the deal was signed, Western governments began back-pedalling.  The UK in particular has decided to put is faith in yet-to-be-invented technologies like nuclear fusion and carbon capture and storage to allow it not only to continue burning fossil carbon, but to expand its oil and gas exploration and recovery.

It is with a jaundiced eye that we need to read the announcement by the G7 countries that they will stop subsidising (i.e. not stop burning) fossil fuels by 2025. As Ed King at Climate Change News points out:

“The statement did not stipulate what constitutes a subsidy. The UK government denies it offers its domestic fossil fuel sector any subsidies, while the ODI [Overseas Development Institute]claims the real figure is £9.5 billion ($14bn) a year.”

If we were serious about carbon emissions, we would stop burning fossil carbon immediately.  At the very least, we should cut all subsidies and begin phasing in carbon taxes by 2020.  Instead, we have a 2025 target with plenty of wriggle room… room that G7 governments will no doubt exploit to the maximum.

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