G7 leaders’ promise this week to decarbonize the global economy by 2100 fell short of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s vision of a fossil-free economy by 2050. But the agreement was still hailed as a significant milestone for global climate action—and a major concession for countries like Canada, where the federal government has spent the last decade promoting unfettered fossil fuel development.
Most striking, perhaps, was that the global dialogue on climate change has reached a point where a 100% decarbonization target by any date is now seen as a compromise against an even more rigorous target.
“I don’t think we should fool ourselves,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters at the end of the summit in
, in the Bavarian Alps. “Nobody is going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights.” But “it’s not about turning off the lights; it’s the principle,” points out CBC Senior Correspondent Terry Milewski. “That principle, never before endorsed with such clarity by the mighty nations of the G7, is that the burning of oil and gas must end or the planet will fry.”
For Harper, a deadline later than 2050 is “a pretty good deal,” Milewski adds. “It buys time—lots of time—for an industry that is now officially doomed.”
According to cited by the Globe and Mail, “European countries in the G7 went into the meeting looking for stronger language about moving to a global low-carbon economy, and it was Canada, a net exporter of energy, along with Japan, who wanted to push back the stated timelines for that ambition,” the paper reports. The language in the final communiqué “allows each country to put a different interpretation on whether that would happen nearer to 2050 or 2100. But the notion of decarbonization, at least, was agreed upon.”
Contrary to Harper’s assumption that decarbonization will mean turning out the lights, barring the discovery of new technology, Clean Energy Canada issued a statement that welcomed the G7 agreement, pointed to rapid growth in Canada’s cleantech sector—and said not a word about the Canadian government position at Schloss Elmau.
“This is already a $1 trillion market—which is expected to more than double in the next decade—and Canada boasts competencies in a whole range of sectors,” said Executive Director Merran Smith. “Investors will be taking note of today’s signal from world leaders. We’re expecting it will lead to stronger policy, and investment dollars will follow. Inevitably, more capital will flow into clean energy solutions, and that means more opportunities for Canadian businesses.”