G-7 ministers meet with energy security, decarbonization in focus

Ministers from the Group of Seven developed nations started Saturday their two-day meeting in the northern Japan city of Sapporo looking for ways to enhance energy security in the wake of Russia's war in Ukraine while at the same time accelerating decarbonization efforts.

Attention is on whether the G-7 meeting on climate, energy and environmental issues, the first in the series of in-person ministerial gatherings leading up to the summit in May, can reach unity on the ambitious goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, including in the electricity and vehicle sectors.

At last year's G-7 summit chaired by Germany, member states agreed to "fully or predominantly" decarbonize the power sector by 2035 but failed to agree on a specific timeline on the goal of phasing out coal power generation due to opposition by resource-poor Japan, which plans to continue to rely on the relatively cheap fossil fuel despite the pollution it causes.

For this round of the meeting, Britain and Canada have sought to eliminate the phrase "predominantly" and push for full decarbonization of the power sector by 2035, while Germany has been among the countries calling for the phaseout of coal power that is not mitigated with technologies to reduce emissions, negotiation sources said.

Another focus is the G-7 ministers' commitment on promoting zero emission vehicles, including whether they will set a target for the market share for such vehicles or even a timeframe for phasing out fossil-fuel vehicles.

But Japan is believed to be reluctant to agree to this as its major automakers have strengths in gasoline-electric hybrids and plug-in-hybrids.

The meeting takes place amid increasing demand to speed up efforts to curb global warming, with a U.N. climate panel calling for more ambitious action in its March report, saying, "The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years."

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that for global temperature rises to be kept to 1.5 C compared with pre-industrial levels -- the target under the Paris Agreement -- the world needs to halve CO2 emissions by 2030 from 2019 levels and cut them by 65 percent by 2035.

Russia's war on Ukraine, however, has posed challenges for decarbonization, as countries that relied on oil and natural gas from Russia moved to diversify and secured stable supplies of energy, including coal, according to the International Energy Agency.

The G-7 meeting co-chaired by Japanese Environment Minister Akihiro Nishimura and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura will also deal with how to prevent the loss of biodiversity.

Negotiation sources have said the G-7 plans to set up an economic coalition aimed at achieving nature positive, or reversing nature loss.

The coalition, which will collaborate with a global group pushing for nature-related financial disclosure, will aim to help financial institutions to appropriately evaluate the environmental impact of the companies they are considering investing in, the sources said.

The G-7 ministers are expected to come up with guidelines to encourage companies to manufacture products that are easy to recycle, at a time when demand for rare metals is expected to increase amid the widespread use of electric vehicles.

There is also a need to ensure a transparent and sustainable supply of critical minerals to enhance energy security as the production of rare metals including lithium and cobalt are dependent on certain countries such as China.

The G-7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States plus the European Union.

© Kyodo News