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G7 Leaders Pledge to End Fossil Fuel Burning — 85 Years From Now

In 2009, G20 leaders pledged to end fossil fuel subsidies — a goal that is far from being met.
June 9, 2015, 9:00pm
Photo by Sven Hoppe/EPA

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A meeting of leaders from the world's leading economies concluded on Monday with the ambitious goal of ending fossil fuel use by the end of the century. The idea is to get to a point of "decarbonisation" by 2100, leaders of the G7 agreed.

"[W]e emphasize that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century," they said in a declaration at the end of a two-day summit in Elmau, Germany.

Ridding the world's biggest economies of fossil fuels is a tall order, particularly if progress on a similar type of commitment on ending fossil fuel subsidies is any measure. At its 2009 summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the G20 pledged to cut support for coal, oil, and natural gas operations.

"Unfortunately, we haven't actually seen those countries in particular take a whole lot of action on subsidies," David Turbull of the non-profit Oil Change International told VICE News.

He says that among the G20 countries, subsidies for the fossil fuel industry have in some cases increased.

Oil Change International estimates that G20 subsidies to the fossil fuel sector add up to about $88 billion annually for exploration alone. A similar analysis of G7 countries — a group that includes Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Japan, and the United States — says exploration subsidies add up to $18 billion annually.

Rich countries are showing poor leadership in this arena, Turnbull said, while some developing countries — Malaysia and Iran, for instance — are dialing down subsidies.

"We are not very pleased with the action that the G20 has taken thus far," Turnbull said. "We should be seeing far more action to eliminate subsidies — now. So they aren't living up to the goal that they set for themselves."

**Related: **The world's largest sovereign wealth fund will no longer invest in coal companies

Peter Frumhoff from the Union of Concerned Scientists said, by the end of the century, nations need to be pulling carbon from the atmosphere — not just achieve carbon neutrality.

"Given how high emissions have been in recent years, we need to zero-out emissions sometime in the second-half of the century globally," he told VICE News. "Decarbonization is the project of our time."

Turnbull said the viability of the G7's pledge to end fossil fuel use relies on the G20's ability to meet its 2009 commitment on ending fossil fuel subsidies.

"They the need to show that they're serious by taking concrete steps in the short term to stop funding the fossil fuels that they say we need to get off," he told VICE News. "It's contradictory to fund with public finance the exploration, production, and consumption of fossil fuels, when you're saying our goal is to move away from them."

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger