The G7 energy and environment ministers held two days of talks over the weekend in Japan, discussing net zero targets and coal power investments.
In a joint statement the ministers reaffirmed their target of achieving zero emissions by 2050 but were not so clear on divestment from new coal power plants and the details of their 2035 targets.
A drive from Canadian Environment minister Steven Guilbeault for stronger targets about coal power generation wasn’t echoed by countries like Japan, which produced about a third of its energy from the emissions intensive fossil fuel.
The host country, along with the U.S., China, Australia, and Germany still have a structural dependency on coal not only for their current needs, but also for satisfying future demand projections.
The non-committal approach of Japan was one of the main topics at the summit and is set to be one of the hurdles when it comes to forming a singular message from the G7 at this time.
The third largest global economy is betting on hydrogen as a decarbonization driver, instead of directly replacing coal. The country’s has been busy constructing hydrogen infrastructure and last year it announced plans to convert its largest coal power plant to produce green ammonia.
Coincidentally Germany closed its last functional nuclear power plant over the weekend. The decision was not changed despite the heavily reduced natural gas imports from Russia after the war in Ukraine erupted last year.
The largest EU economy turned to coal production for its short-term needs, while also rapidly expanding its Liquefied Natural Gas Infrastructure and laying the foundations of a hydrogen network.
The G7 is responsible for roughly 15% of coal emissions, according to a recent report from the Global Energy Monitor. But the central role of the group and the nature of its relationships with the more rapidly growing economies of the G20, and particularly with China and India, give it some leverage in the decision-making process.
The two most populous countries are set to continue their use of coal and have set individual net zero targets that are further down the road. China has indicated that it plans to become carbon neutral by 2060, while India has set its sights on 2070.
But other economies in the region have begun to adapt to a low-carbon future. Vietnam recently announced it has negotiated a $15.5 billion package from the G7 to reduce its coal power use.