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G7 Countries Agree to Exit From Coal by 2035

The agreement follows several failed attempts by the seven economic superpowers to set a timeline for a coal phaseout, though some environmental groups have said the deal is “too little, too late.”

The Group of Seven (G7) reached an agreement to exit coal in the first half of the 2030s, marking a significant first step toward the international pledge made at COP28 last year.

Energy ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US met last weekend in the Italian city of Turin for the first time since the UN climate summit, which ended with an unprecedented deal to “transition away” from fossil fuels and phase out unabated coal power, by far the most polluting fuel.

In an interview with Class CNBC, UK minister for nuclear and renewables Andrew Bowie described the agreement as “historic.”

“To have the G7 nations come around the table and send a signal to the world that we, the advanced economies of the world, are committing to phase out coal by the early 2030s, is quite incredible,” Bowie said.

Coal, the cheapest and dirtiest fossil fuel, is the single-largest source of carbon emissions, responsible for over 0.3C of the 1C increase in global average temperatures. It is also a major contributor to air pollution.

Previous attempts to provide a concrete timeline for coal phaseout failed. Talks in 2023 ending with a commitment to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and “fully or predominantly” decarbonise the power sector by 2035 that stopped short of endorsing a 2030 deadline that Canada and other countries had campaigned for. The year prior, the seven nations agreed to end fossil fuel subsidies abroad by 2025, recognizing for the first time that such subsidies are, in fact, incompatible with the Paris Agreement 1.5C pathway.

With the exception of Japan, all G7 countries have a domestic coal phaseout commitment and are committed to net-zero by no longer than 2050. Combined, the seven economic superpowers accounted for 21% of global power sector emissions in 2022. While coal represents a very small proportion of the energy mix of France, Italy, Canada and the UK, Germany, the US, and Japan still rely on the planet-warming fuel for 27%, 19%, and 34% of their total energy, respectively.

G7 nations' reliance on coal and phase-out commitments

With the exception of Japan, all G7 countries have a domestic coal phaseout commitment and are committed to net-zero by no longer than 2050. Image: Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G).

In response to the announcement, Tracy Carty from Greenpeace International said the pledge is “too little, too late.”

“If [G7 countries] are serious and aligned with what the science says is needed to keep 1.5° within reach, G7 countries must ditch this dinosaur planet wrecking fuel no later than 2030 – and as the climate emergency demands they can’t just stop at coal: Fossil fuels are destroying people and planet and a commitment to rapidly phase out all fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – is urgently needed,” she said in a statement.

Fossil fuels are still predominant around the world. Last year, they accounted for over 70% of the global energy supply. Global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions hit a record high last year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which said the rise was partly driven by increased fossil fuel use in drought-stricken regions.

Total increase in energy-related CO2 emissions, 1900-2023

Total increase in energy-related CO2 emissions, 1900-2023. IEA 2024

A UN Environmental Programme report published in November 2023 suggests that while major producer countries have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions and take steps to reduce emissions from fossil fuel production, none have made commitments to decrease coal, oil, and gas production in alignment with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Instead, current production plans indicate that governments will generate 110% more fossil fuels at the end of the current century than the amount required to keep on track with the Paris target.

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