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Saving Lives at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit

John Kirton, Director, G7 Research Group
May 26, 2016

When they assemble at Ise-Shima, Japan, for their 42nd annual summit on May 26-27, G7 leaders will have fewer than 24 hours to cover their broad agenda embracing the economy, health, climate change, infrastructure investment, security and gender equality. How can they best use their scarce time together to find the synergies that will save the most lives at the least cost in the short, medium and long term? The answer lies in shifting their economies strongly to employ the energy sources long known to save the most lives and to enhance health in their production and use as well as to control climate change most effectively and the gender inequalities it brings. This means they must kill killer coal and give a green light to nuclear power above all, until the renewables revolution arrives in full force.

The facts are clear. Globally, to generate a trillion kilowatt hours of electricity, coal kills 170,000 people, oil kills 36,000, biofuel/biomass kills 24,000, natural gas kills 4,000, hydroelectricity kills 1,400, rooftop solar kills 440, wind kills 150 and nuclear power only 90 (including the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima). In their climate change effects, coal is equally deadly, while nuclear power is virtually emissions free.

Yet among the G7 members, only Canada in 2009 and the United Kingdom in 2016 have decided to end coal-fired electricity generation. Germany, the host of last year's G7 summit, is phasing out its use of nuclear power but still relying on lignite, the dirtiest form of coal. And Japan, the host of this year's summit, has shut off almost all of its nuclear reactors, but plans to build new coal plants that will kill an estimated 10,000 Japanese. How can the G7 leaders at Ise-Shima credibly claim to care about implementing and improving the Paris Agreement and inspiring all G20 members to do so when they collectively continue on this irrational and deadly path?

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John KirtonJohn J. Kirton, is director of the G7 and G8 Research Group, and co-director of the G20 Research Group, the Global Health Diplomacy Program and the BRICS Research Group. He is also a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at China's Renmin University. A professor of political science, he teaches global governance and international relations and Canadian foreign policy. He has advised the Canadian and Russian governments, the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization on G7/8 and G20 participation and summitry, international trade and sustainable development, and has written widely on G7/8 and G20 summitry. Kirton is the author of many chapters and articles on the G7, G8 and G20. His most recent books include G20 Governance for a Globalized World (Ashgate, 2012) and (with Ella Kokotsis), The Global Governance of Climate Change: G7, G20 and UN Leadership (Ashgate, 2015), as well as The G8-G20 Relationship in Global Governance, co-edited with Marina Larionova (Ashgate, 2015). Kirton is also co-editor of several publications on the G8, the G20 and the BRICS published by Newsdesk Media, including G20 Turkey: The Antalya Summit 2015 and G7 Germany: The Schloss Elmau Summit 2015.

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