The G7 Calls for a Coal Phase-Out, but No Expiration Date

by Hannah Melville-Rea 

The Group of Seven (G7) summit is an annual meeting between the heads of states of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US) [1]. This year, the meeting took place between 11th and 14th June 2021 in Cornwall. As the hosts of both the G7 and the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), the UK placed climate action high on the agenda. 

For the first time, the G7 explicitly addressed a coal exit; their joint-statement, or communiqué, recognises that “coal power generation is the single biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions” and outlines steps for a coordinated coal exit [2]. 

On the Friday of the summit, the G7 opened alongside coal protests by giant Pikachus [3]. Japan is by far the largest consumer and financer of coal in the G7. In fact, 30% of Japan’s electricity is generated by coal [4]. Last year, the nation imported 159 million tonnes of coal and emitted about 389 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) [5]. Still, with mounting pressure, Japan has improved its emissions target ahead of COP26 and announced it would close 100 of its coal-fired power plants by 2030 [6,7]. 

The progress made on a coal phase-out at the G7 this weekend is significant. The nations affirmed that the G7 is committed to ending “new direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021” [2]. While they fell short of setting a 2030 coal phase-out deadline, this strengthened last month’s statement by the G7’s Finance Ministers to “take concrete steps towards” ending new finance for coal by the end of the year [8,9]. Climate campaigners both welcomed the new commitments and lamented the lack of stronger targets for ending coal, oil and gas [10]. 

Yet, more work is required. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s recent Net Zero scenario, for a 50% chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C, “there is no need for investments in new fossil fuel supply beyond 2021” [11]. Between 2017 and 2019, the G7 provided USD 86 billion in public finance for fossil fuels, of which 88% went to oil and gas [12]. Thus, civil society groups are calling for an end to oil and gas projects, on top of coal financing [10]. 

Also worthy of attention, the G7 committed to [2]: 

  • submitting adaptation communications as soon as possible, and if feasible by COP26
  • phasing out new direct government support for international carbon-intensive fossil fuel energy as soon as possible
  • accelerating the transition away from new sales of diesel and petrol cars to promote the uptake of zero-emission vehicles
  • taking action to decarbonise areas such as iron and steel, cement, chemicals, and petrochemicals 
  • increasing and improving overall international public climate finance contributions 

Yet, in particular the lack of concrete and new financial contributions was criticised by experts and climate groups [10, 13]. After the summit only Canada and Germany made commitments to increase climate finance; Canada said it would double its climate finance pledge to $4.4 billion over the next five years while Germany said it would increase its contribution to $7.26 billion by 2025 [14]. However, these new pledges are insufficient to fill the large gap which still exists in reaching the target of $100bn/year of climate finance for developing countries [15].  

All in all, the G7 climate commitments are judged too weak to ensure the success of COP26 by experts, who warned that without new climate finance pledges COP26 will ‘flop’ [10, 15].


[1] G7 summit: What is it and why is it in Cornwall?, (2021), BBC, Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[2] Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communiqué, (2021), The White House, Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[3] Michael Holder, (2021), Pikachu pushes for G7 coal phase-out, as leaders begin talks in Cornwall,  Business Green, Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[4] Japan beyond Coal, (2020), Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[5] Ember mine-to-plant explorer, Ember, Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[6] Osamu Tsukimori, (2021), Japan pledges 46% greenhouse gas emissions cut by 2030, The Japan Times, Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[7] Reuters Staff, (2020), Japan to shut or mothball 100 ageing coal-fired power plants: Yomiuri, Reuters, Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[8] Karl  Mathiesen, (2021), G7 leaders stumble on coal phaseout timeline, Politico, Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[9] Roger Harrabin, Climate change: G7 ministers agree new steps against fossil fuels, (2021), BBC, Available at, (accessed on 14/06/21)
[10] Megan Rowling, (2021),  EXPERT VIEWS-G7 climate commitments judged too weak to bag COP26 success, Thomson Reuters Foundation News, Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[11] IEA (2021), Net Zero by 2050, IEA, Paris, Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[12] Anna Chang, (2021), Open Letter: G7 Leaders should end not just coal, but also oil and gas finance in 2021, The Australia Institute, Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[13] Fiona Harvey, (2021), G7 reaffirmed goals but failed to provide funds needed to reach them, experts say, The Guardian, Available at, (accessed 14/06/21)
[14] William Schomberg, Elizabeth Piper, (2021), More needed: G7 nations agree to boost climate finance, Reuters, Available at, (accessed 15/06/21)
[15] Chloé Farand, (2021), G7 offers ‘peanuts’ to developing world, putting climate ambition in doubt, Climate Home News, Available at, (accessed 15/06/2021) 
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