News reports out of the G7 summit in Germany present a bevy of interesting developments. For instance, the leading nations agreed to commit to pulling half a billion people out of extreme poverty and hunger. They also committed to collaborating to respond to epidemic threats, like last year’s ebola outbreak. These are both really big deals.
They are also overshadowed by the industrial powers’ pledge to transition away from fossil fuels by the end of the century. That is what we in the news biz call a really, really big deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel– the “Climate Chancellor”– announced the plan Monday, as the global leaders wrapped up their meeting, held in a Bavarian castle. The countries represented– Germany, France, Italy, the UK, the US, Canada, and Japan– make up some of the most powerful economies in the world. They are all in the wealthy northern hemisphere, and subscribe to western-style corporate capitalism. All have thrived in a carbon-fueled economy, making their pledge to wean themselves from it all the more dramatic.
Among the biggest surprises in that group is Canada, which has sacrificed environmental concerns at the altar of tar sands development. Its failure or refusal to make reducing carbon emissions a priority has been a sticking point in its relations with the US, among others. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s pledge to make Canada a “global energy superpower” has come at the expense of everything else, at great detriment to the Canadian economy. It’s also caused him to issue a gag order on government scientists, and to neglect regulating the tar sands industry as it poisons the people of Alberta. Somehow, though, Merkel and the others got Canada on board.
Less surprising is President Obama’s committing the US to the effort. The US is already committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, matching a pledge by the United Kingdom. That is a pretty high goal to hit with just 35 more years to get there. But it adds on to the evidence that my prediction that Obama will reject Keystone XL.
But most important is the fact that investing $8 billion into building new pipeline infrastructure is the exact opposite of moving away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels. This is one of the factors cited by 100 scientists calling for a moratorium on tar sands development; the investment in tar sands means a delay in transitioning to cleaner fuel technology. If Obama takes the 2100 pledge seriously, Keystone XL cannot be a part of the national energy policy.
The pipeline prediction is looking better and better.