Activist countries

After G7 summit, Germany’s climate envoy says rich countries are still lagging behind

Cover the climate nowThis story is part of Covering Climate Now, an international journalism collaboration co-founded by Columbia Journalism Review and The nation strengthen coverage of climate history.

JEnnifer Morgan is diplomatic but candid about this week’s G7 summit: he hasn’t done enough to stop the climate emergency or address the horrific spike in world hunger.

As the German government’s special envoy for international climate action, Morgan is the German equivalent of John Kerry, the Biden administration’s climate diplomacy chief. But she came to her job in March after leading Greenpeace International for five years, and she knows full well how much change – and how quickly – is needed to preserve a livable and equitable planet.

Some progress was made at the annual gathering of leaders of the world’s seven richest economies (excluding China), Morgan said in an interview with The nation and the global media collaboration Covering Climate Now, but “clearly, at this time, I think we all know that more action is needed at all levels.”

When G7 leaders met June 26-28, the German hosts were determined to continue advancing climate action despite the “horrible” war in Ukraine, Morgan said. Germany also wanted a strengthened response to the doubling in the past two years of the number of people on the brink of starvation to around 323 million, many of them women and children. The decisions of the G7, as reflected in the summit’s final communiqué, fell short of both points.

Putting the best face on the situation, Morgan said it was “really important” that every G7 country commit to “stepping up” the emissions reduction targets announced at the COP26 climate summit last November. The electricity sector, for example, in each G7 economy will be “climate neutral by 2035”. The G7 also pledged to mobilize $600 billion in public and private funds for Just Energy Transition Partnerships to help India, Indonesia and other low-income countries transition from coal to coal. taking advantage of renewable energies and energy efficiency.

More than once, however, Morgan refused to endorse what the G7 leaders had decided.

“As someone who lives and breathes the climate, it’s not a decision I would have made,” she said of one of the summit’s most criticized decisions: allowing the construction of more liquid natural gas terminals and other fossil fuel infrastructure. These new infrastructures were deemed necessary to compensate for the phasing out of Russian gas imports by European countries. Climate activists countered that rolling out heat pumps and improving energy efficiency was a better approach. Morgan herself has noted that building fossil fuel infrastructure is incompatible with limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C, according to the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change. and the International Energy Agency.

Still, Morgan stressed that under the updated G7 plan, any new fossil fuel infrastructure will only be allowed under very limited conditions: it must be compatible with the 1.5°C target and cannot ” block” long-term emissions. When asked how this last condition could be met without making this infrastructure a locked asset, Morgan replied that it was a challenge that any potential investor should “understand”. Many won’t care, she suggested. Investors see the world “moving towards renewable energy and energy efficiency”, she argued, and are unlikely to risk massive investments in fossil fuel infrastructure that cannot generate profits only after decades of operation.

“It’s tough” being in government, Morgan said, but she doesn’t regret leaving her past as an activist behind. “When you’re in government, you have to make decisions that balance many different things. What we’re trying to do is make sure that the climate is first and foremost, a top priority. But it’s different from litigate from the outside, where you don’t have to consider those other factors.

His former civil society colleagues were particularly critical of the G7’s decision to allocate just $4.5 billion to help the hungry.

“Faced with the worst hunger crisis in a generation, the G7 simply did not take the necessary action,” said Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at Oxfam International. “Millions of people will face terrible hunger and starvation as a result…. The G7 itself says that 323 million people are on the brink of starvation because of the current crisis, a new record. Nearly one billion people, or 950 million, are projected to go hungry in 2022. We need at least an additional $28.5 billion from the G7 to fund food investments and agriculture to eradicate hunger and fill the huge gap in UN humanitarian appeals. The announced $4.5 billion is only a fraction of what is needed.

Oxfam’s statement also criticized the G7’s refusal to offer debt relief to poor countries – “For every dollar of aid given, poor countries have to repay $2 to their creditors, often banks in New York or London making huge profits” – as well as its failure to deliver the $100 billion a year in climate aid to poor countries, which is the legal obligation of rich countries under the Paris Agreement.

“I can fully understand the criticism, the frustration of countries, especially the most vulnerable countries on the planet who are facing these [climate] faster and harder impacts than scientists thought were going to happen,” Morgan said. “And I think it’s absolutely clear that the G7 and all developed countries have a real commitment to achieving this goal.” She added: “Germany is doing everything in its power to financially support the World Food Program and work very actively to get the grain from Ukraine to the countries, so they have it. This is a top priority for my minister right now.

American by birth and education, Morgan pointed out that it would be impossible to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C if the United States did not strongly limit its own emissions and provide the financial assistance. that developing countries need to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Speaking a day before the U.S. Supreme Court’s gutting of the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, Morgan added that Germany is taking strong action because the climate survival requires it, but also because “our companies see a real competitive advantage” in standing out. the emerging green economy.

“American actors are going to lose,” Morgan warned, adding that the United States will also be less able to exercise leadership on the world stage if it does not have a credible climate agenda. “For all these reasons, I hope the United States will enter this space.”