On June 11 to 13, global leaders met in Cornwall, England, uniting around climate action, leading up to the United Nations’ climate conference – COP26 – in November. Accounting for a quarter of global carbon emissions and 40% of the world economy, G7 countries (U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Japan, and European Union) play an outsized role in mitigating climate change. They made the following commitments at the meeting, which was an opportunity for President Biden to heal relationships and prove the capacity of democratic alliances:
- Cut collective emissions in half by 2030 from 2010 levels.
- Phase out gas and diesel cars.
- Provide $100 billion in climate finance to poorer nations.
- Stop overseas financing for coal projects lacking carbon capture technology by 2022, and provide $2.8 billion to support the process.
However, they are being criticized for not setting a specific date to end coal burning in their own countries, making it more difficult to call on China to reduce coal use.
Climate finance is key to (re)building trust between the Global North and the Global South, as low-emission developing countries have contributed much less to climate change and struggle to invest in low-carbon technology. In 2015, developed countries pledged $100 billion annually in climate financing support from 2020 onwards to developing nations, but have fallen short by $20 billion; loans versus grants made usage more difficult for developing countries. The G7 renewed the pledge but declined increasing it further. A lack of climate financing by G7 countries, combined with the end of coal funding, could force developing countries to seek support from China for fossil fuel projects, enhancing China’s influence. China is taking a lead in areas of clean energy technologies, but their investments in fossil fuel technologies remain much larger.
G7 members did back President Biden’s sweeping infrastructure plan for a green recovery in developing countries to counter China’s multi-trillion-dollar, fossil fuel heavy Belt and Road Initiative. And UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered a new Marshall Plan with renewable energy, technical assistance and climate-facing projects in developing nations, but few details.
A further disappointment was lack of progress on addressing carbon leakage – a growing concern as manufacturers in countries with stricter climate policies must compete with foreign manufacturers that do not face similar rules. Although President Biden called for a U.S. carbon border tax during his campaign, the Administration has now cautioned European leaders against it. If Congress does not pass carbon pricing legislation, a border tax becomes unrealistic.
Much remains to be done leading up to COP26 if it is to be a turning point for effective global action. The U.S. has signaled a return to climate leadership and restoring former alliances and must immediately build on these new foundations toward greater climate commitments and action. We can still embark on the path toward a green, prosperous and safe future for all but it will require building a deeply committed coalition of countries that can rapidly implement bold and binding measures nationally and internationally.
The clock is ticking.
Additional details on Greenleaf Communities' climate policy recommendations can be found in our report, Addressing Climate Change Using a Carbon Tax & Dividend Plan Within a Global Compact.