G7 scrambles to keep climate agenda on track as Ukraine war roils energy supplies


FILE PHOTO: Heavy equipment excavate anthracite coal from a strip mine in New Castle, Pennsylvania, U.S., July 13, 2020. REUTERS/Dane Rhys//File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Ministers from the world's wealthiest democracies will wrangle over how to keep climate change goals on track as they meet in Berlin on Thursday for talks overshadowed by spiralling energy costs and fuel supply worries sparked by the war in Ukraine.

Energy, climate and environment ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) countries want to reaffirm a commitment to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius and protect biodiversity at the May 25-27 meeting.

The group will also consider committing to a phase-out of coal power generation by 2030, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters, though sources suggested that opposition from the United States and Japan could derail such a pledge.

The draft, which could change considerably by the time talks conclude on Friday, would also commit G7 countries to have a "net zero electricity sector by 2035" and to start reporting publicly next year on how they are delivering on a past G7 commitment to end "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has triggered a scramble among some countries to buy more non-Russian fossil fuels and burn coal to cut their reliance on Russian supplies, raising fears that the energy crisis triggered by the war could undermine efforts to fight climate change.

Campaigners urged the ministers of the G7 to make clear commitments that the fallout of the Ukraine war would not derail their targets.

"We have a new reality now. The G7 need to respond to that, and they should respond through renewables, and not through fossil fuel infrastructure," said David Ryfisch, climate policy expert at non-profit Germanwatch.

While seeking consensus on an oil embargo on Russia, the European Union is pushing to accelerate the bloc's pivot to renewable energy while finding fossil fuel alternatives to Russian supplies.

Alden Meyer, senior associate at climate think-tank E3G, said tackling climate change was the best and quickest way for countries to achieve energy security.

"Climate impacts are worse than scientists originally predicted and there's far worse ahead if we don't cut emissions rapidly," Meyer said. "Delivering on climate promises really becomes even more vital in this tense geopolitical environment."

Ahead of the meeting, the B7 group of leading business and industry federations of the G7 states called on the group to back a plan along the lines of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's "climate club" to harmonise standards on emissions and CO2 pricing.

Scholz had suggested the idea to try to avoid trade friction in areas including green tariffs, the development of markets for decarbonised products, carbon pricing and removal methods.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett in BRUSSELS and Markus Wacket in BERLIN; writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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