U.S. refuses to back G7 communiqué of environmental ministers on climate change issues

At the end of the Environment Minister’s Meeting of the G7 in Bologna on June 11 and 12, 2017, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK, as well as the respective European Commissioners reaffirmed their “strong commitment to the swift and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement”. Moreover, they highlighted that the agreement is “irreversible” and that they will continue to cooperate with other Parties in implementing the accord. In addition, the “G6” stressed the significant opportunities arising from the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

A final communiqué was published covering a range of issues, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contained therein, climate change, sustainable finance and the role of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) in addressing these topics. Moreover, in the field of resource efficiency and circular economy, the “5-year Bologna Roadmap” was adopted, aiming at advancing common activities. Finally yet importantly, all G7 ministers reiterated the pledge to phase-out fossil fuel and other harmful subsidies.

The US, however, refused to back the sections of the final communiqué on climate change and the MDBs. The respective footnote in the document highlights that the US will continue to demonstrate climate action and to engage with international partners, but only if it is “consistent with [their] domestic priorities”. Therefore, the US would not be able to join the above-mentioned sections, “reflecting [the] recent announcement to withdraw and immediately cease implementation of the Paris Agreement and associated financial commitments”.

Other issues related to the climate change section are the adoption of the Paris rulebook by 2018 and the importance of the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, a precedent of the global stocktake to assess collective progress on climate action. The G6 expressed their intention to develop and present a shared proposal on the design of the Facilitative Dialogue at the upcoming COP23 in Bonn in November. Besides, the six countries recalled the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals, which would require ramped-up pre-2020 ambition and “further transformational changes thereafter”. They highlighted the need to align financial flows with the targets of the Paris Agreement as well as the need to “achieve a global decarbonized, climate-resilient economy over the course of the century, including the transformation of energy sectors by mid-century”. Interestingly, they also reaffirmed the goal of developed countries to mobilise USD 100 billion yearly by 2020 to developing countries for climate action, despite the U.S. announcement to renege on its pledges and in the face of calls by vulnerable countries to fill the void left by Donald Trump.

Regarding the section on MDBs, which was not backed by the US, the six countries called upon development finance institutions (DFIs) to increase sustainable and climate resilient investment to support the transition towards a low-carbon and resource-efficient global economy, including a strong commitment to climate adaptation. In addition, the MDBs and DFIs were demanded to mainstream climate considerations in their overall portfolios.

As a result, climate policy continues to divide the G7. Already at the meeting of the Heads of States and Governments in Taormina at the end of May, the disagreement between the U.S. and the other six countries and the EU was obvious. Back then, Trump had not yet taken the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which is why the Leaders’ Communiqué acknowledged the review of climate change policies in the U.S. In contrast, the other six countries stressed the significance of the Paris Agreement and reaffirmed their commitment in the final document.

As The Independent notes, the split within the G7 is unprecedented. The Washington Post headlined “This is what the U.S.’s new global isolation on climate change looks like”. Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was taking part on behalf of the U.S. in the meeting of the ministers in Bologna. However, he was only present for five hours before travelling back to the U.S. for his a Cabinet meeting. It remained unclear if this was indeed the real cause for the departure as the G7 Environment Minister’s Meeting was planned already months ahead.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Merkel is seeking support for climate considerations at the upcoming G20 summit. The meeting will take place at the beginning of July in Hamburg. When visiting Argentina and Mexico, she nevertheless tried to avoid the impression of gathering an alliance against the U.S., as Reuters reports.


(Image: Bologna. Sourc: Lorenzoclick, flickr)