A quick look at the G7 agreements – “Build Back Better”

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By Tim Dixon

14 June 2021

This G7 was a big deal for the UK Government for many reasons, and it wanted to hold a physical meeting so it chose scenic Cornwall, which came with the risk of the lovely variable Cornish weather. This G7 was also a big deal for the USA, the first major opportunity for the Biden administration to show that the USA was back fully participating in the international scene. This G7 was being themed as the first “net zero G7” for the G7 countries of UK, USA, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan, with additional guest countries Australia, India, Korea and South Africa. It was hoped that their leadership on climate change would enable more ambitious outcomes at COP26.

The G7 maintained climate change as a major theme, as well as the much-needed focus on COVID. All the G7 countries made pledges to achieve net-zero by 2050. What matters also is what they will put into their Paris Agreement Long-term Strategies (LTSs). The G7 also committed to cut their collective emissions by around half by 2030. A major theme was “Build Back Better for the World”, more specifically to give developing countries more access to finance for greener infrastructure. They also reaffirmed to provide the $100bn pa that was agreed in the Paris Agreement. This was meant to be by 2020 but fell well short, so it is good to reinvigorate this pledge now for 2025 and hopefully it will be met.

The G7 will aim to lead a technology-driven transition to net zero from the energy sector, and reference was made to the IEA’s recent Net Zero Roadmap. In terms of CCS, the G7 agreed to “overwhelmingly decarbonise” power generation in the 2030s, in particular scaling-up technologies and polices to move away from unabated coal power generation, and to stop official financing to developing countries to build new unabated coal power by the end of 2021. The BBC helpfully clarified for their readers that this meant only coal power with CCS could be financed, built and used. Also in the high-level communique was a promise to accelerate technologies such as CCUS for industrial decarbonisation, and support for Mission Innovation and the Clean Energy Ministerial (both of which have CCUS initiatives).

Another CCS related outcome was the G7 Industrial Decarbonisation Agenda (IDA), an interesting new initiative to decarbonise large-emitting industry sectors such as cement, filling in any gaps in other international initiatives. The communique for this includes mention of the IEA’s Technology Collaboration Partnerships (TCPs) programme, of which IEAGHG is one, and it mentions the IEA Industrial Energy-related Technologies Systems TCP in particular as very relevant, as indeed is IEAGHG also for these sectors.

More detail relevant to applications of CCS is provided in the G7 Climate and Environment Ministers’ Communique from the 21 May. This looks at climate change across all aspects of the Paris Agreement – mitigation, adaptation and finance, and encouraging more “increased-ambition Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs) to be submitted for COP-26. It includes encouragement of more international collaboration on ‘net zero energy’. It commits to rapidly scale-up technologies and policies that further accelerate the transition away from unabated coal and to decarbonise power by the 2030s.The communique commits to “greater levels of innovation funding” for the hard-to-abate industrial sectors including for CCUS and for hydrogen. It also recognises that negative emission technologies such as Direct Air Capture can play a role to offset residual emissions.

All the G7 communiques and press releases are available at https://www.g7uk.org/

In following this 2021 G7, I acknowledge all the work that would have gone on in advance by the ‘Sherpas’ and supporting policy advisers and diplomats to get these communiques drafted and negotiated. I reflected on the work to generate the first G8 agreements on CCS in 2005 when the UK had the G8 Presidency and I was working in UK government on these. Then, CCS was new to all those involved. As a reminder, the final 2005 G8 agreements on CCS in the ‘Gleneagles Plan of Action on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development’ were as follows:

“We will work to accelerate the development and commercialization of Carbon Capture and Storage technology by:

(a) endorsing the objectives and activities of the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF), and encouraging the Forum to work with broader civil society and to address the barriers to the public acceptability of CCS technology;

(b) inviting the IEA to work with the CSLF to hold a workshop on short-term opportunities for CCS in the fossil fuel sector, including from Enhanced Oil Recovery and CO2 removal from natural gas production;

(c) inviting the IEA to work with the CSLF to study definitions, costs, and scope for ‘capture ready’ plant and consider economic incentives;

(d) collaborating with key developing countries to research options for geological CO2 storage; and

(e) working with industry and with national and international research programmes and partnerships to explore the potential of CCS technologies, including with developing countries.” (G8 2005)

This text looks a bit dated now, but it is interesting to reflect on the subsequent success of these initiatives. Of particular note is the capture-ready initiative, as this was delivered by IEAGHG with the report IEAGHG 2007-04 which became the original definition and reference on capture-ready, and forming the basis for the regulations for capture-ready fossil power plant and is still well-cited. Also to note are the recommendations on exploring the potential with developing countries, an example of which was the IEAGHG report 2008-02 on Storage Potential in the Indian Subcontinent, and continues still with many more examples including the ongoing World Bank’s and ADB’s programmes on CCS funded by the UK and Norway. These all show that to be most effective, international leadership and new initiatives must be backed-up by delivery, and IEAGHG was happy to play that role.

So despite the early Cornish rain, the sun did come out to shine on beautiful Cornwall and on the political outcomes on climate change which align with the Paris Agreement and build towards the forthcoming COP26. The fact that the leaders and their teams were able to meet physically, and new leaders and their teams able to cement new relationships, should all help encourage better outcomes at COP26 in November. Although there were no new G7 initiatives specifically on CCS/CCUS, there are acknowledgements of its role in their broader commitments and initiatives. Sixteen years on from the first G7 to include CCS, I hope that there are now many more ‘delivery organisations’ (and the funding) prepared to turn these initiatives into actions, because scale-up of all mitigation actions including CCS deployment is more rapidly needed if net zero ambitions are to be achieved.

Tim Dixon

14 June 2021

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