Harper Agrees to End Use of Fossil Fuels by 2100, Make Deep Cuts to Emissions by 2050 at G7 Summit

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signed on to a G7 commitment to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2100 and make significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The move will “require a transformation in our energy sectors,” Harper said at a news conference in Garmisch, Germany.

“Nobody’s going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights,” he said. “We’ve simply got to find a way to create lower-carbon emitting sources of energy — and that work is ongoing.”

According to federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May, an earlier draft of the G7 committment sought full decarbonization by 2050, but both Canada and Japan fought to weaken the declaration. 

The final version of the G7 leader’s declaration states: “We emphasize that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century.”

"We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050 and invite all countries to join us in this endeavour."

One anonymous source, speaking to the CBC on the G7 discussions said “Canada and Japan are the most concerned about this one.”

“The two of those countries have been the most difficult on every issue on climate.”

Canada’s Poor Climate Record

In the lead up to UN climate talks in Paris this fall, where nations hope to produce a global treaty to reduce carbon emissions, Canada’s targets have been called “inadequate” for their “lack of ambition.”

Canada committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

But according to the New Climate Institute, Canada’s commitment relies heavily on the use of credits that help the country “avoid reducing emissions from other sources such as fossil fuels.”

Other experts pointed to growing emission from the Alberta oilsands. Since 2005, emissions from the oilsands have increased 79 per cent and are expected to continue growing for decades.

“It’s clear Canada is not serious about climate action,” Bill Hare from Climate Analytics said. “Without any new policies in place, its emissions are expected to balloon through to 2030, with the tar sands taking up a significant proportion.“

It is unclear what Harper’s participation in the G7 leader’s declaration will mean for growth rates of the oil and gas sector.

Claire Martin, Green Party climate change critic, said she "challenge[s] Stephen Harper to tell Canadians his plan, so that we can put timely and measurable plans in place to make these targets realistic and meaningful.”

Martin added, “I welcome Mr. Harper’s commitment to agree with the G7 statement on climate — however, as a scientist, I must question the lack of hard numbers assigned by Canada as to how we as a country, will transition off fossil fuels, defend our economy, and follow the agreement. There are still no binding greenhouse gas reduction targets from Canada." 

World Leaders Playing Climate Catch Up

A poll recently commissioned by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) shows 90 per cent of people from across the globe want to see elected leaders act on climate change.

“Politicians who are not prepared to commit to decarbonize our world and save us from the horrors of climate change don’t deserve to be elected,” ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said.

“This survey proves any pressure for world leaders to continue to sit on their hands is coming from the corporate world and not their people.”

"The G7 leaders today declared that the global economy must be decarbonized this century if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. This is yet another signal that the end of the fossil fuel era is inevitable, and the dawning of the age of renewables is unstoppable,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement.

“Now G7 countries must increase the ambition of their domestic climate plans, so as to do their fair share of meeting this global goal.”

Image Credit: G7 Germany

With files from Heather Libby.

Carol Linnitt is a journalist, editor, illustrator and co-founder of The Narwhal. Carol has been reporting on energy and environmental…

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