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G7 agrees 'concrete steps' for coal phaseout

May 27, 2022

At the end of their Berlin summit, G7 energy and climate ministers pledged to largely stop generating electricity with fossil fuels by 2035. The move comes amid unease over energy security due to the war in Ukraine.

Climate ministers from the G7 at a summit in Berlin, Germany on May 27, 2022
G7 climate ministers have made their first commitment to phasing out coal in electricity generationImage: Thomas Koehler/photothek/picture alliance

Climate and energy ministers from the Group of 7 (G7) wealthy nations pledged on Friday to significantly curb the use of coal and other fossil fuels in electricity production — with the goal of an "eventual" complete phaseout, according to a final communique seen by DW.

The announcement by Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and the US — at the end of a three-day summit in Berlin — comes as Europe scrambles to find new energy sources and cut its reliance on Russian oil and gas over the war in Ukraine.

Germany, which is the current chair of the G7, has insisted that finding alternative fossil fuels would not happen at the expense of environmental goals.

When it took office in December, the German coalition government vowed to bring forward the country's own coal phaseout plan by eight years to 2030 and has been pushing other G7 nations to bring forward their plans.

Is coal making a comeback in Germany?

What exactly did G7 ministers agree on?

G7 ministers made their first commitment to quit coal-fueled power, which is responsible for a large chunk of global greenhouse gas emissions.

In a joint communique, they agreed to "further commit to a goal of achieving predominantly decarbonized electricity sectors by 2035," which included "concrete and timely steps towards the goal of an eventual phase-out of domestic unabated coal power generation."

The ministers said they would raise their ambitions with regard to renewable energies and "rapidly scale up the necessary technologies and policies for the clean energy transition."

What else did they commit to?

  • The G7, including Japan for the first time, agreed to end financing of fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of the year, with a few exceptions like those approved for national security and geostrategic interests.
  • Acknowledging for the first time that fossil fuel subsidies are incompatible with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, the ministers said they would end subsidies for heavily-polluting fuels by 2025.
  • For the first time, the G7 recognizes that it must support vulnerable countries in dealing with the effects of climate change. They pledged to increase climate finance for developing countries by 2025.
  • Ministers called on the world's development banks to submit their plans in time for the United Nations climate summit COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in November.
  • In another first, they also committed to securing a highly decarbonized transport sector by 2030 by increasing the use of zero-emission vehicles and pledged to decarbonize industry — particularly within the steel and cement sector.
  • Ministers said they would also boost cooperation on green hydrogen projects and the final communique also included a strong emphasis on protecting biodiversity, the oceans and fighting plastic pollution.

'Strong signal' to rest of world 

German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck said the agreement would send out a “strong signal" about the urgent need to protect the climate.

"Nobody here needs to convince themselves that we are proud pioneers of climate protection. But we're trying to catch up on what didn't go well enough in the past —  and that's also the case with climate finance."

"That we reward climate-damaging behavior, either through direct subsidies or through tax advantages... is absurd and this absurdity has to be stopped," Habeck told a news conference.

German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said the talks were a success because "the three existential crises of our time" — climate change, the global extinction of species and plastic waste — were "thought through together."

"The crises are very closely linked," Lemke emphasized and the solutions should also be solved together.

Reacting to the pledge, Alden Meyer, senior associate at climate policy think tank E3G, said it was "good that Japan, the world's largest financier of fossil fuels, has now joined the other G7 countries in making a shared commitment to end overseas fossil fuel financing." 

David Ryfisch of the Germanwatch environmental group said the agreement was "significant progress" as it had come during "a very difficult geopolitical situation." 

We need to talk – about climate change

Germany, US sign pact on renewal energy

Also on Friday, Germany and the US signed a declaration of intent to take a lead role internationally in setting the framework for a successful energy transition to protect the climate.

The focus is on hydrogen, offshore wind power, zero-emission vehicles and on support for third countries, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on the sidelines of the G7 talks.

US climate envoy John Kerry spoke of the economic opportunities around climate protection, describing it as "the biggest market the world has ever seen." 

He said protecting the planet would become much more expensive if investments aren't made soon enough.

With their cooperation, both allies said they want to encourage other countries to also seize the opportunities of the energy transition.

Edited by: Rebecca Staudenmaier