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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Leaders of the G7 agreed to a sweeping new agenda over the weekend. But while the communique they issued is lofty in goals, it lacks crucial details on climate.

Why it matters: The G7's paucity of specifics on climate finance and domestic coal consumption, in particular, calls into question the ability of the wealthiest nations to take sufficient action on global warming.

  • This comes as experts warn that time is running out to prevent some of the most damaging climate effects.
  • In addition, the G7 outcome boosts pressure on the UN climate summit in Glasgow this November, as negotiators could enter the meeting with tensions between rich and poor countries.

Details: The G7 communique is notable for weaving climate throughout its many goals. However:

  • While countries agreed to boost funding for climate finance abroad, they did not provide many specific figures or approach the scale of spending that they first raised in 2009 and affirmed in 2015, which was $100 billion annually starting in 2020.
  • This missing climate finance commitment portends trouble for the climate summit, known as COP26.
  • While countries committed to ending new government support for coal plants abroad without capture and storage by the end of this year, they did not provide an end date for their coal use domestically. This could reduce their leverage with China, the top coal consumer.

Yes, but: The U.S. does have a 100% clean power target by 2035.

Context: The closely watched G7 summit is the latest sign that having lofty ambitions on global warming and creating tangible, on-the-ground carbon-cutting steps are two different things.

  • In the U.S., for example, major climate legislation may not get through Congress as previously anticipated.
  • Global carbon emissions have already bounced back to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Last week, the International Energy Agency stated that oil demand will have already completely recovered from the pandemic by the end of next year, a departure from the organization's pathway for a net-zero emissions future.
  • Other new data shows China's oil demand has returned to pre-pandemic levels, a signal of what may take place elsewhere as coronavirus restrictions are loosened.

What they're saying: Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, said countries disappointingly "punted" on climate finance.

  • "The $100 billion has to be taken off the table, and a new commitment made for 2025 and later, because of its political symbolism, as well as the whole concept of promises made, promises kept from the developed world," she told Axios.
  • "We seem to be acting like we've got all this time in the world, and we don't."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 21, 2021 - Energy & Environment

China vows end to building coal-fired power plants abroad

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Mary Altaffer/Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the UN General Assembly Tuesday that his country "will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad" and plans to boost support for clean energy in developing nations.

Why it matters: The pledge, if maintained, would mark a breakthrough in efforts to transition global power away from the most carbon-emitting fuel.

Sep 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Inside the UN's fraught climate huddle

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the media at the Informal Leaders Roundtable on Climate Action at UN Headquarters. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

A closed-door, head-of-state level meeting at the United Nations Monday with nearly two-dozen leaders and emissaries showcased the rifts between countries on core climate policy issues.

Why it matters: These gaps must be narrowed during the next few weeks in order to avert a failed U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow.

Updated Sep 17, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on powering up clean energy jobs

On Friday, September 17, Axios Climate & Energy reporter Andrew Freedman and Energy reporter Ben Geman hosted a virtual conversation on what building a fair economy with quality clean energy jobs could look like, featuring The Honorable Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and BlueGreen Alliance executive director Jason Walsh.

Sen. Alex Padilla explained how the infrastructure bill puts forth investments toward the environment, the urgency of acting on climate change at a legislative level, and how recent climate emergencies have underscored that urgency. 

  • In response to questions about climate investments in the infrastructure bill: “We need to act with urgency, we need to act boldly, that’s half the equation. It’s okay to have questions on what the price tag is, but of equal importance is knowing that we’re doing this in a fiscally responsible way.” 
  • On garnering necessary bipartisan support for the infrastructure bill to pass: “I do believe we’re going to get to yes at the end of the day, and that end of the day is going to be in the weeks ahead, not the months ahead, because of the urgency that I just laid out.” 

Jason Walsh highlighted the important intersection between climate action and clean energy jobs, the challenges of creating high-quality jobs in the power sector, and how budget reconciliation would help to meet clean energy job goals. 

  • On addressing crises relating to job creation, economic and racial inequality, and the climate emergency: “We have the ability with budget reconciliation to advance solutions to these crises that are as mutually reinforcing and intersecting as their causes. We feel like we can’t afford not to take advantage of this opportunity.”
  • On why budget reconciliation must address the lack of high-quality clean energy jobs: “Not enough of the clean energy jobs that have been created are high quality and union. They have not been created at scale in some of the communities and parts of the country that need them the most, and the lived experience of workers dislocated from incumbent industries, coal mining and power plants, doesn’t meet any reasonable standard of fairness and justice.”

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.