Posted on 05 May 2019
Credit where it’s due: under successive presidents, the French Republic has put itself in the vanguard of the effort to halt climate change.
Its diplomats were tireless in laying the foundations of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Since his election in 2017, President Macron has been outspoken at home and internationally in favour of strong action on climate – even refusing to mince his words
during his (ultimately fruitless) campaign to woo his American counterpart.
But France and the other members of the G7 risk missing an opportunity to ensure that vigorous climate action remains an urgent priority for international policy. At the meeting of G7 environment ministers
that took place in Metz on 5-6 May under the aegis of the French G7 presidency – climate change has made its way to the the communiqué: the role of the IPCC is acknowledged, the outcomes of COP 24 are welcomed and the commitment to effective decisions at COP 25 is affirmed. The US, as expected, has unfortunately reiterated its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. But no clear mention was made to enhancing climate ambition or the need to update and improve NDCs by 2020.
In its release in January announcing the Metz ministerial
, the Elysee Palace stated that “climate change will be a major priority of France’s G7 year.” It rightly highlighted how climate change risks exacerbating inequality through its impacts on vulnerable populations. It stated that one of its four environmental priorities for its G7 presidency would be to support scientific warnings and international action regarding climate change.
In preparatory meetings ahead of the ministerial, a clear focus on biodiversity protection has emerged, fearing that too much emphasis on climate change would risk push-back from the US administration. The outcome of the Environment Ministers’ meeting is a good start, but G7 countries need to be much more ambitious if they truly wish to keep the world on a pathway to 1.5 degrees.
Clearly, G7 is right to recognise the urgency of the crisis facing nature around the world. The IPBES – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – has released its first assessment since 2005 of the state of global biodiversity. The report
highlights “the shocking losses
” that have hit the natural world over recent decades.
Its findings echo that of the landmark Living Planet report
, published last year by WWF. It found that, in just two generations, the population sizes of vertebrates tracked in the benchmark study have declined an average of 60%.
The IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 has highlighted impacts for biodiversity at 1.5 and 2 degrees warming and it’s not a nice picture.
As science has been clearly stating for a couple of years, protecting nature and the climate are inextricably linked. It is understandable that France is looking for concrete progress within the G7, and that the conversation on climate change has never been an easy one. But allowing countries not committed to the Paris Agreement to set the pace on international climate action would be a serious mistake. Besides protecting our oceans and forests, G7 countries must also enhance their 2020 targets, phase out fossil fuels subsidies by 2025, double their GCF pledges and promote a just transition if we want to remain on a path to 1.5 degrees warming.
Fernanda Viana De Carvalho is the global policy manager for WWF’s Climate and Energy Practice. She is based in Brasilia, Brazil.