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The G7's Poor Performance on Climate Change Control

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

At their summit on May 26-27, 2016, G7 leaders produced a surprisingly and dangerously poor performance on climate change control.

To be sure, they pledged to take leadership and to ratify, accept or approve the Paris Agreement "as soon as possible." But they set no date to do so let alone report that any of them have done so half a year after the Paris Agreement was forged.

They pledged to formulate their "low greenhouse gas … emission development strategies well ahead of the 2020 deadline," but agreed to take stock of their and global progress only five years from now.

On climate finance they promised no new money of their own, even after reporting their previous promise to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020.

They made no promises to act on climate risk insurance, renewable energy in Africa or innovation. They just complacently welcomed what others had done.

There were baby steps taken on aviation, short-lived climate pollutants, hydrofluorocarbons and methane. But they took a backward step on fossil fuel subsidies, promising to eliminate them only a decade later than their previous G20 promise to do so by now. And there was not a word on the need to kill killer coal — as Canada and the UK have done.

This stunning failure on climate change was all the more surprising given the increasingly urgent need to curb the rapid rise of greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures. Japan's first G7 summit in 1979 invented the global governance of climate change with the most ambitious and effective control regime the world has ever seen. Japan's last G7 summit, hosted by Primer Minister Yasuo Fukuda, earned a full A grade for it impressive achievements to control climate change. Shinzo Abe's 2016 summit at best deserves a grade of D. But relative to the urgency and magnitude of the climate change threat now, it must be given an F for failing its own citizens and the world as a whole.

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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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