G7 summit has not done enough to solve the global environmental crisis

Environment, biodiversity and the climate were all on the agenda during the three days of the G7 summit held on 24-26 August in Biarritz, France. However, few concrete decisions were taken. EURACTIV’s partner Le Journal de l’environnement reports.

During the G7 summit, French President Emmanuel Macron attempted to mobilise states on topics as diverse as gender equality, relations with Africa, wartime sexual violence, and the impending economic recession.

In addition to this relatively consensual programme, other issues were also discussed. The summit’s agenda included the issue of taxing the digital sector or relaunching negotiations with Iran on the nuclear deal, with some results in the end.

This was not the case when it comes to the environment, despite biodiversity and “protecting the planet” being among the summit’s “main priorities”.

Biodiversity Charter

Admittedly, the heads of state and government adopted the Metz Biodiversity Charter, which had been approved by a dozen environment ministers on 6 May.

The document, with its carefully chosen wording, aims to strengthen and improve “biodiversity policies, action plans and research programmes.” However, the text does not provide any additional details.

“This is the first international commitment to biodiversity. We wanted to create momentum as we did for climate change,” the French president explained at a press conference on Monday (26 August).

This commitment is a first milestone before the next Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biodiversity, which will take place in China next year.

Water bombers

With biodiversity in mind, the G7 countries and nine Amazonian countries agreed on a partnership to reduce the damage caused by the forest fires in the world’s most significant carbon sink, the Amazon rainforest.

Coordinated by the Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, the first step is for G7 countries to release $20 million to finance the purchase of water bombers and training of firefighters.

Although the Brazilian government officially rejected this aid because France said it would refuse to ratify the EU-Mercosur deal, the Brazilian president has now accepted it (on condition that Brazil controls the funds).

In the longer term, countries that share the Amazon forest have committed to reforesting the areas cleared by the fires. A detailed plan to address this will be presented before the UN General Assembly at the end of September.

A pact without follow-up

Besides, 32 fashion and textile companies presented their Fashion Pact, which includes a series of promises to reduce their climate impact, on biodiversity and the oceans. Companies will still be able to do what they want, and no secretariat has been entrusted with verifying the sincerity of the commitments made.

The British, German and French governments pledged to double their contributions towards the UN Green Climate Fund. “This G7 makes it possible to mobilise, in all, nearly €5 billion to reconstitute the fund,” the president announced on Monday (26 August).

Although it has not yet been funded, this is good news. Particularly since the UN Secretary General’s climate summit starts in three weeks.

Nothing on decreasing the speed of cargo ships (yet)

Macron also announced that he would reduce the speed at which commercial vessels currently sail.

“We will engage with shipping companies to reduce the speed [of commercial vessels], which is one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions. This is the first time we’ve done it,” he said.

However, no agreements have been signed between the G7 countries and professional organisations. In Biarritz, the French president stated that he would announce the position of France and its supporters at the next meeting of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in November.

The matter is far from being settled.

Four times France’s yearly energy consumption

In the very last hours of the summit, the refrigeration sector presented its proposals. Led by the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD), this coalition in favour of promoting efficiency in the cooling energy sector aims to reduce the electricity consumption of air conditioners and fans.

These machines, whose cooling fluids are potent greenhouse gases, consume a total of 2,100 terawatt-hours of electricity per year worldwide. This is the equivalent of four years of French energy consumption, according to a report by the International Energy Agency published in 2018.

Currently, ten devices are sold every second across the world. Without improving their energy efficiency, they will continue to consume three times more energy in 2030 and emit more than 2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year.

Still waiting for China

“France, India, Rwanda, Chile, Burkina Faso and France have already agreed to strengthen the efficiency standards for refrigeration equipment,” said Maxime Beaugrand, head of IGSD’s Paris office.

This does not seem too bad.

However, with the notable exception of India, none of the major air conditioning and fan producing countries are included in the list of signatories.

Could this be a topic of discussion for the French president during his next state visit to China in November?

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