US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speak at the G7 summit yesterday. Photo: Reuters
US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speak at the G7 summit yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Climate change action on Obama, Merkel’s G7 agendas

By Bloomberg Time of article published Jun 8, 2015

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Justin Sink Washington

PRESIDENT Barack Obama’s meeting yesterday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel was an opportunity for the pair to champion an issue dear to them both: climate change.

The pair were expected to talk upon Obama’s arrival at the site of the Group of Seven (G7) meeting in the Bavarian Alps, one of the last, best opportunities for the leaders from some of the largest industrialised economies to shore up support for a global climate accord before the Paris climate conference in December.

The G7 summit coincides with talks hosted by the UN in Bonn, where staff-level negotiators are ironing out many of the details of the accord leaders plan to announce in Paris. While leaders of the assembled nations generally agree on the need to address climate change, domestic politics and strained budgets have slowed translating that into action.

Merkel and Obama are staking their legacies on it.

The German chancellor has made energy central to her political platform since the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, working to close Germany’s nuclear plants and heavily investing in renewable energy.

“Chancellor Merkel clearly hopes that this year’s summit will demonstrate the commitment of G7 countries to delivering a Paris agreement that achieves both broad participation and strong ambition,” said Elliot Diringer, the executive vice-president of non-partisan policy group Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Obama priority

Obama, meanwhile, has made addressing climate change a priority in his second term. He has pledged to reduce US emissions by between 26 and 28 percent from the 2005 baseline within the next 10 years, and last year announced a surprise agreement with China on capping carbon emissions.

“We see the G7 as an important milestone on this issue, and one where we will be able to speak with other G7 countries about ways that we can move both with announcing our own targets and taking steps to support other countries,” deputy national security adviser Caroline Atkinson said.

Merkel has given a discussion of energy and climate issues prime billing on the G7 schedule, with a session slated for world leaders this morning.

Systemic risk

And other world leaders may be feeling the pressure. A group of 120 chief executives of investment funds and other representatives of major institutional investors wrote in late May to the G7 nations’ finance ministers, asking them to improve commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“We believe climate change is one of the biggest systemic risks we face,” the letter from the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change read.

Leaders are expected, at minimum, to issue statements reaffirming the importance of a global treaty and the shared goal of limiting the rise in global average temperatures to less than 2ºC above their pre-industrial levels.

Merkel used her weekly podcast on Saturday to urge G7 leaders to commit to a limit on rising temperatures – or else. “I hope that we as G-7 nations can clearly say that we stand by these goals,” she said. “Otherwise, in my view there will be no agreement in Paris.”

Less clear is whether that affirmation will be accompanied by the substantial policy announcements sought by environmental groups.

One major concern involves promised donations to the Green Climate Fund, a UN initiative designed to help poorer countries limit their carbon emissions. Key developed countries failed to meet an April 30 deadline to convert $4.7bn in pledged assistance into concrete payment timetables.

In the US, payments would need the approval of the Republican-controlled Congress, while other nations are grappling with tight budgets. – Bloomberg

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