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Climate change and energy. The G7 is not enough

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By Corrado Clini

· 4 min read

I know - from my long experience - the difficulties of negotiations for drafting the shared final communiqués at the end of international meetings on complex and divisive issues such as climate change and energy. 

The Italian Presidency of the G7 reached an agreement confirming the objectives, strategies and language of the latest international climate agreements. 

The statement on multilateralism as a way to tackle the climate crisis together with energy security was by no means a given. And this is an Italian success. 

Just as the inclusion of nuclear energy among the technologies for decarbonisation is of great importance: this is an answer within the "perimeter" of solutions directly manageable by the G7, and can be a "milestone" for competitiveness in the “global market of decarbonisation”. 

Likewise, the G7 priority in reducing the carbon intensity in "hard to abate" production sectors (steel and chemicals in particular) paves the way for the development of innovative technologies and solutions among which the hydrogen (green and blue), CO2 capture and reuse, and energy efficiency.

Furthermore, the “G7 Adaptation Accelerator Hub” is a political and economic initiative that has the potential to create a hub to address the most difficult challenge of climate change, the protection of the most vulnerable regions of the planet from extreme events. Additional objectives and commitments of the G7 Climate and Energy agreement are outside the "perimeter", i.e. their feasibility depends in a very relative way on the G7 group. 

For example, the phase out of coal by 2035 is an objective of great value, but with little effect on the global carbon budget. Global data on the use of coal show that China and India today cover almost 70% of coal consumption for electricity production, compared to 13.5% for the USA, Japan and Germany together. 

The phase out of coal, an imperative objective for the reduction of global CO2 emissions, cannot be achieved without the agreement of China and India, which are now the second and third largest economies on the planet but are not even "guests" of the G7. 

Similar considerations apply to renewable sources. The G7 commitment to triple the quantity of energy from renewable sources by 2030 means approaching in the next five years the current levels of China (1,453 GW equal to 3 times those of the USA, Germany, Canada, Japan , Great Britain, Italy, France all together) . If we then consider Brazil and India, the distance is even greater.

But China, India and Brazil will not wait for the G7 and are racing towards new records: India wants to become the first economy in the world with the highest percentage of energy from renewable sources. Without considering the great activism of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which are building impressive infrastructures for renewable sources in collaboration with large Chinese companies. 

This means that in the next 5 years the availability of critical minerals and rare earths will be the “key” for the development renewable energy and electric mobility technologies . If we look at the 2023 data on rare earths, the production of China is five times of the USA and four times of the USA and Australia combined. 

Not only that, Europe imports 98% of rare earths from China, without considering other critical materials. G7 countries underline the urgency of supply chain diversification, i.e. reducing dependence on supplies from China 

The objective of increasing independence is understandable and acceptable, but the urgency of the development of renewable sources and electric cars in the next five years is not compatible with the timing of any greater extraction and processing of critical minerals and rare earths by G7 countries. 

That is, how can the G7 triple renewable sources "regardless" of the international context of supplies and development of innovative technologies for the refining and use of raw materials? 

These are the "black holes" of the G7 climate and energy strategy. 

According to the Institute for Energy Economies and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), planned LNG storage facilities in 2030 will exceed expected gas demand in Europe by more than 76% if renewable sources are tripled. But if this does not happen, here is LNG from the USA and Qatar ready, with many regards to the commitment to reduce methane emissions. The G7 did not talk about this.

It would have been appropriate to open a dialogue on climate and energy by the G7, at least with China, India, Brazil, the Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, in view of the upcoming COP 29 in Baku. 

We would like to avoid the G7 seen from New Delhi, Beijing, Brasilia, Dubai, Riyadh, as a minority group that tries to set the rules for the vast majority of the planet's economies. 

 illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Corrado Clini is one of the world's most renowned environmental experts and policy-makers. He served as Minister of Environment, Land and Sea of Italy from 2011 to 2013. Prior to that, he spent over two decades as the Director General of the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea. During this time, he directed national programs on industry and the environment, energy and the environment, transport and the environment, and the research and development of new technologies for energy efficiency and conservation of natural resources. He was also the Co-Chairman of the G8 Task Force on Renewable Energy and Chairman of the Global Bioenergy Partnership. He is now a Visiting Professor at the Department for Environmental Sciences and Engineering of Tsinghua University.

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