• G7 climate ministers target increased deployment of renewables after early criticism of Japanese approach

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Climate ministers of the Group of Seven countries (USA, UK, Germany, Japan, France, Canada and Italy, as well as representatives of the EU) have agreed a text on decarbonisation and the development of low-carbon energies after weeks of negotiations and a final meeting in Sapporo, Japan, a week ago. The communiqué commits to: 

  • “accelerate the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels so as to achieve net zero in energy systems by 2050”. This avoids language about the phase out of coal by 2030, something that Canada had pushed for but Japan opposed. The countries did agree, however to make “concrete and timely steps” to phase out “domestic, unabated coal power generation” to achieve “predominantly” decarbonised power sectors by 2035.
  • Increase solar power generation capacity by 1 TW (1000 GW) by 2030 across the seven countries, and wind power generation capacity by 150 GW. Together, that would be roughly equivalent to the total amount of renewable capacity added worldwide between 2016 and 2021 (1282 GW).

On gas, there was a phrase that investment in production and use of the fuel “can be appropriate”.  Overall, the commitment to additional renewables capacity will probably be more impactful than the qualified language around fossil fuel use, the most significant of which is probably to do with being “unabated”.

Ahead of the G7 meeting of climate ministers, the Financial Times reported that there was criticism of the Japanese government’s approach to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Under particular fire from climate ministers from the UK, France and Canada was wording around the use of ammonia and hydrogen as means of decarbonising economies, with the three countries pressing for a statement about “zero-emission thermal power generation” to be qualified by the statement “should only be pursued where it can be demonstrated to be aligned with [the 1.5C target of the Paris Agreement]”.

In addition, Canada pushed for a change in the description of hydrogen and ammonia as being “effective” emission reduction tools to “potential”. There appears to be some conflation on the part of the FT in describing the production of ammonia as being heavily reliant on fossil fuels; while this is largely true at present and is true of blue ammonia (and hydrogen), it is not true of green ammonia and hydrogen.

It also elides over the large potential decarbonisation in ‘blue’ fuels. Still, there is some substance to the criticism brought by the other G7 nations – economically viable decarbonisation via ammonia and hydrogen is highly reliant on costs coming down. However, the the criticism also avoids the issues that Japan has in not having an abundance of land available for renewable energy production (though it could concentrate on offshore wind projects) and in having its national grid split into two operating environments, which makes the need for low-carbon fuels more pressing.