Blog: Sink or swim? G7 give coal sector lifebelt | WWF

Blog: Sink or swim? G7 give coal sector lifebelt

Posted on 27 May 2016
The coal sector is not so buoyant despite huge public subsidies
© Chris Booth
Actions speak louder than words, the old adage goes.

Someone should ensure the seven industrialised countries, known as the G7, got the memo - their actions on climate change and energy are at odds with their fine-sounding words.

Just yesterday, the G7 leaders issued a pledge to combat climate change and to “encourage all countries” to eliminate public financing for coal, oil and gas by 2025, at their meeting in Japan.

The G7 countries also all signed up to last year’s Paris Agreement, which aims to try and keep global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees C, meaning fossil fuels need to end as soon as possible.

However, while such words are welcome, unless they are backed up by actions they are going to ring hollow.

The reality looks rather different, with the seven countries still spending mind-blowing amounts of public finance on coal plants and development abroad - a total of $42 billion from 2007-2015 - a new report shows.

Of the seven, this year’s host Japan is in a league of its  own, providing over half the total subsidies - $22 billion. Indeed, seemingly unphased by the blatant contradiction between its words and its actions, Japan just endorsed two new coal plants.

Germany is the number two G7 supporter of coal abroad, funnelling $9 billion over the time period. The United States gave about $5 billion; France, $2.5 billion; Italy, $2 billion; United Kingdom, $1 billion; and Canada, just under than $1 billion.

Emissions from coal-fired power plants financed by the G7 countries from 2007 to 2015 total 100 million metric tonnes of carbon pollution per year.

Such financing cannot continue in a post-Paris world. Taxpayer money should not be wasted on buoying up energy sectors which are destroying climate, health and habitats even as they inevitably sink.

The G7 need to back up their official statement with actions, phasing out all support for fossil fuels, starting with coal, and focusing instead on clean, safe and cost-efficient renewable energy and energy efficiency.