News | 19 May 2023

To ensure energy and food security, Scholz must stop pushing gas at G7

Christoph Bals, Policy Director at Germanwatch, about the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima

In the lead up to this weekend’s G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima, Germany has been exposed for joining Japan in pushing fellow G7 members to backslide on previous commitments and endorse increased public investments in gas. Contrary to what Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz says, different studies show that new investments in gas are not necessary to increase energy security but only exacerbate the climate crisis and threaten food security. Chancellor Scholz risks undermining a successful G7 Summit regarding climate for the second year. Instead, he and the other G7 leaders should promote an ambitious global goal for renewable energy investments and energy savings that are critical for a safe future.

Just a month ago, G7 climate and energy ministers said in Sapporo that they are "steadfast in their commitment to … keeping a limit of 1.5°C global temperature rise within reach". The WMO just showed that we might surpass the high risk limit of 1.5°C in the short-term within the next five years. This should be a final wake-up call for the G7 Leaders to avoid permanent warming above 1.5°C. Getting on track for 1.5°C requires G7 members to end their investments in new gas production and liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure. According to the IEA’s 1.5°C scenario, even a 50% chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C means no investments in new upstream gas or LNG infrastructure without stranded assets. These findings remain unchanged in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine and its impact on global energy markets.

Germany and fellow G7 members need to live up to their commitment to end international public finance for fossil fuels by the end of 2022. While Canada, the United Kingdom and France have policies that implement this groundbreaking commitment, Germany does not yet have one. Answers to parliamentary questions reveal that Germany is even considering ten applications connected to fossil fuel energy projects for public finance support with a total volume of about 1 billion euros. Despite G7 minister’s claiming last month that they have delivered their commitment and have ended their international public finance for fossil fuels, analysis shows the opposite - not only for Germany, but also for Japan, Italy and the United States.

Ending investments in new gas is not just critical to address the climate crisis, which at a 1.2°C temperature increase is already killing millions of people a year, mainly the poor and particularly in the Global South. It is critical for energy and food security, affordability and development. Renewable energy technologies are more affordable than fossil fuels, also in poor countries, if the interest rates are reduced to the level of the G7 countries. They can be scaled up more rapidly and can better reach local communities without access to electricity. They also help avoid fiscal instability linked to volatile fossil fuel prices and stranded asset risks as global gas demand drops. Particularly for developing countries, the combination of an accelerating climate crisis and the fiscal risks of fossil fuels increase debt burdens even further.

In Germany, recent gas infrastructure investments mean that gas is oversupplied soon. Additional investments in new gas infrastructure now will not address any short-term energy needs of Germany or mitigate the impact of current energy prices. Rather they come with carbon lock-in and stranded assets risks hindering the transition of the recipient countries as well as Germany. Rather than lowering soaring energy bills, they increase Germany’s exposure to volatile global energy markets. Instead, these resources should be invested in energy efficiency and ramping up renewable energy capacity, which is still vastly insufficient to keep the world on track to non-catastrophic warming.

When it comes to food security, the climate crisis is one of its biggest threats, causing drought, soil erosion, water scarcity, biodiversity loss and food supply instability. Methane emissions - a big part from fossil gas - have a shorter atmospheric lifespan than carbon dioxide, but is a much more potent greenhouse gas, trapping far more heat per molecule than CO2 in the next decades. It is now the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, and thus lowering its production and use is critical to limit the climate crisis from threatening global food security.

The only effective way to tackle the climate, energy and food crises is not to invest more in gas, but to shift billions out of fossil fuels and into the renewable energy and efficiency solutions that are needed to address the climate crisis and can better deliver on energy, food security and affordability. The clock is ticking, Germany must not waste another G7 with a poorly informed push for gas.