G7 Commits to Phase Out Fossil Fuels
Described as a diplomatic coup for Germany’s ‘climate chancellor’, who persuaded climate recalcitrants such as Japan and Canada to sign up for phasing out fossil fuels by 2100, is a significant achievement by Angela Merkel, but is it enough? Now French President François Hollande calls on International Labour Organization (ILO) member States, social partners, businesses and local communities to take action to address climate change, anticipate technological transformation, ensure successful energy transition and guarantee a true international labour law. Read More
G7 fossil fuel pledge is a diplomatic coup for Germany’s ‘climate chancellor’
Persuading climate recalcitrants such as Japan and Canada to sign up for phasing out fossil fuels by 2100 is a significant achievement by Angela Merkel
Karl Mathiesen in The Guardian (8 June 2015)
The plan outlined by the G7 on Monday to phase out fossil fuels by the end of the century is, for some member countries, not quite as ambitious as it sounds.
The US is already committed to an 83% cut in carbon emissions on 2005 levels by 2050, and the UK has set its own cuts of 80% on 1990 levels by the middle of the century.
But the agreement of the leaders of Japan and Canada, who are viewed as climate recalcitrants, is seen as a diplomatic coup for Angela Merkel, one of the longest-running players in interational climate negotations.
As environment minister in 1995, Merkel brokered a precursor to the Kyoto protocol and was dubbed the “climate chancellor” by German media early in her premiership, before financial crisis pushed her green agenda backwards.
“This does push countries, and certainly a country like Canada or Japan. I think they are not currently on a decarbonisation pathway so this definitely does pull them more into that pathway,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the global climate programme at the World Resources Institute.
“The fact that you’ve got a group who have different positions in the negotiations to come together on some of these issues is significant and somewhat surprising.”
The announcement was warmly welcomed environment groups. “Angela Merkel took the G7 by the scruff of the neck,” said Ruth Davis a political advisor to Greenpeace and a senior associate at E3G.
Morgan praised the momentum that appears to be developing among the world’s leaders for climate action.
“Politically, the most important shift is that chancellor Merkel is back on climate change. This was not an easy negotiation. She did not have to put climate change on the agenda here. But she did,” she said.
Tom Burke, environmental advisor to Shell, Rio Tinto and Unilever, said Merkel had made a “big play”.
“It’s more aggressive than you would have expected. That’s been helped a lot by the US démarche with China and the growing signs are that China is probably going to do better than a lot of people are expected,” he said.
He said that outside the numbers, the G7’s primary function was to send signals to other countries and to markets and that the announcement today would shift things significantly.
“Everyone gets over focused on what the text of the treaty is. What really matters is what gets done in the real economy and the extent that the players in the real economy react to this signal. You’re going to shift the needle of interest in the investing community away from oil and gas and towards renewables, storage and energy efficiency. And I think that’s further than probably the oil companies had anticipated,” said Burke.
May Boeve, executive director of campaign group 350.org, agreed: “The G7 is sending a signal that the world must move away from fossil fuels, and investors should take notice.”
However, analysts were divided over whether the G7’s decarbonisation commitment would be enough to avoid dangerous climate change.
“Deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century,” read the agreed text, signed by the leaders of Germany, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and Japan.
Morgan said a target of zero fossil fuels by 2100 would not keepwarming below 2C, the level agreed by governments , unless sharp cuts happen earlier in the century.
“It totally depends on the pace of the decarbonisation. You either need to be there by 2050 for CO2 and a bit later for all greenhouse gases if you want a high chance of staying below 2C. If you’re up for a 66% chance then you can go longer out into the century,” she said.
A total phase-out of fossil fuels by 2050 was momentarily on the table at last year’s UN climate conference in Lima, but swiftly disappeared.
The G7 text called for as-close-as-possible to a 70% reduction on 2010 emissions by 2050. But it also allowed for mechanisms that “increased ambition over time”. Morgan said this introduction of a mechanism to “ratchet up” targets might be the most important paragraph of the document and was “fundamental to keeping 2C within sight”.
Burke noted that decarbonisation probably didn’t mean the total abnegation of fossil fuels. The world can still burn a few gigatonnes of carbon per year and remain carbon neutral by relying on natural uptake of carbon. He said the reality of the phase out would probably allow for gas being burned for heat and carbon-fuelled planes.
World of Work Summit
President Hollande calls for tripartite mobilization on climate change
Guest of honor of the 104th Session of the International Labour Conference, French President François Hollande advocated for universal mobilization to fight climate change and better ensure application of international labour law.
ILO News (11 June 2015):
French President François Hollande called on International Labour Organization (ILO) member States, social partners, businesses and local communities to take action to address climate change, anticipate technological transformation, ensure successful energy transition and guarantee a true international labour law.
“To act for climate is to act for growth, justice and labour rights,” said President François Hollande in an address to delegates at the 104th International Labour Conference in Geneva.
As a guest of honour of the Conference, the President of France spoke to some 4,000 delegates from governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations from 185 member States of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in a special sitting at the Palais des Nations in Geneva
“Climate change is a global challenge that will not be met without a commitment by all countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases in proportion to their means and their responsibilities,” said Mr. Hollande in announcing preparations for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) to be held in Paris in December 2015.
“We need a global agreement, differentiated and compelling,” he added, stressing the need for global financing of up to $100 million per year as of 2020.
“The ILO should be more involved in the preparation of major world conferences,” including the climate conference, the post-2015 agenda and trade negotiations, noted President Hollande, recalling the proactive role of ILO in the fight against climate change.
According to a recent ILO study, the transition to a greener economy could generate some 15 to 60 million additional jobs worldwide within 20 years provided countries adopt appropriate policies related to the decent work agenda. Emerging and developing countries would be the first to benefit. Moreover, this development model would help tens of millions workers get out of poverty. “If we do nothing, we could have job losses, unemployment and deterioration of living standards,” warned François Hollande reiterating that “the first priority is to create jobs.”
Introducing the French President, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder praised the commitment of France in the fight against unemployment. “For the past three years, your government was committed to fighting unemployment, which is a global challenge. Your government is implementing an ambitious programme of work, with the central goal of sustainable improvement in growth and employment.” Mr. Ryder welcomed the support given by France to challenges such as the transition to a low carbon economy and the key issues related to climate change.
The ILO’s advocacy in this area is based around a few simple ideas: the ecological transition offers opportunities for jobs and growth that must be seized, we must now anticipate the skills and training that this economy will need, finally, this transition, to be fair, should help intensify efficiency in the fight against poverty and inequality. “In a word, decent work and the climate agenda go hand in hand and reinforce each other,” insisted Guy Ryder.
François Hollande and Guy Ryder also signed an agreement renewing an existing partnership between France and the ILO which is funded up to some € 14 million over four years. The French funding will support the ILO’s efforts through technical cooperation programs, particularly in francophone Africa. The areas covered correspond to ILO priorities such as the promotion of decent work, governance and human rights, social protection floors and the fight against child labour. The partnership agreement will also involve French companies in ILO efforts to promote corporate social responsibility and to support the ILO centenary initiative on the future of work.
Furthermore, France and Peru launched on 10 June in Geneva a joint appeal on climate change and decent employment. This call urges all countries to undertake efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change which can act as a powerful engine of growth, job creation, social justice, gender equality and eradication of poverty.
France intends to ratify the ILO Protocol on Forced Labour by the end of 2015.