The end of international coal investment and protecting biodiversity were on the agenda for the recent 47th G7 summit. But November’s COP26 needs to deliver greater ambition and more detail, if global temperature rise is to be limited to 1.5 degrees.

The G7, or ‘Group of Seven’ is an inter-governmental political forum made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Earlier this week, the forum held their 47th annual summit, with climate action very much on the agenda. Held on 11-13 June, the summit marked the first time the leaders had committed to keeping projected global temperature rise below 1.5C, according to the White House. A key meeting point on the road to COP26, the G7 leaders set out commitments on moving away from coal and gas, climate financing and a green COVID recovery. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended as a guest, while maintaining that Australia opposed setting targets for certain aspects of the economy – at odds with the call from G7 leaders for ‘all major economies to […] join us in phasing out the most polluting energy sources, and scaling up investment in the technology and infrastructure to facilitate the clean, green transition’. 

The summit followed the US-led Climate Leaders Summit earlier this year, where countries including G7 members boosted their ambitions for climate action. Before the Summit, Australia’s 2030 targets were already modest in comparison to other comparable countries. After nations stepped up the difference was even more apparent – the weakest target of the G7 was that of Canada at 40-45 per cent reduction on 2005 levels. Australia’s 2030 target is 26-28 per cent reduction. And to underline that Australia could do more, the collective impact of state and territory commitments will exceed this target, according to Climateworks analysis. Coordination would allow even greater ambition across all levels of government.

Note: Italy and France not pictured, their targets are against 1990 levels.

G7 members resolved to end international funding for unabated coal by the end of the year, and to phase out support for all fossil fuels. The announcement comes after the IEA’s roadmap, Net Zero by 2050, called for no new oil, gas and coal exploitation beyond 2021 commitments, adding further pressure to the Australian government’s gas-led recovery. This commitment is likely to put pressure on countries still dependent on coal and coal exports. It could also have a significant impact on Australia’s exports, with Japan, a G7 member, one of Australia’s most important coal and gas customers.

In conservation news, the G7 agreed to conserve or protect at least 30 per cent of global land and marine areas by 2030, and to halt and reverse biodiversity loss in-line with the Global Deal for Nature. Australia has also signed on to the global alliance. Currently, the country’s extinction rates are amongst the highest in the world, as highlighted in the Climateworks discussion paper on protecting and restoring nature as part of the 10 food and land transitions.

While these commitments are a step in the right direction, they are still insufficient for limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Our modelling shows the global 1.5C carbon budget has reduced by 30 per cent in just three years. In order to stay within this budget carbon emissions must reach net zero in a straight line by 2034. This could stretch to 2050, but it would require an even steeper drop in emissions in the next few years, highlighting the crucial importance of interim targets. Our Decarbonisation Futures shows that with an ‘all-in’ approach, Australia can reach net zero emissions by 2035 – consistent with a 1.5 degree future.

Commitments out of the G7 summit have been criticised for a lack of detail, labeled by those wanting greater ambition as a ‘plan to make a plan’. And critics have highlighted the need for wealthy countries to step up not only their emissions reductions, but also to act on financial climate pledges made to support more vulnerable countries. Australia has the power to act on its doorstep, by supporting its Pacific neighbours who live in some of the countries most at risk from climate change. 

All eyes will be on COP26 in November, anticipating  detail on the ‘how’ of  these commitments. In what is set to be one of the most significant milestones for the future of the planet, the world must deliver greater ambition – and a plan to get there.

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