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Will the War in Ukraine Crowd Out G7 Climate Action in 2022?

John Kirton and Brittaney Warren, G7 Research Group
March 22, 2022

In early January 2022, as host of the G7 this year, Germany produced its design for the summit that put climate change in first place, and did so in an ambitious, innovative and comprehensive way. But on February 24 Russia invaded Ukraine and has continued to expand its deadly assault. This has led many to wonder if the war would crowd out G7 attention and action on climate change, the way that the deadly COVID-19 crisis did when it erupted in 2020.

Thus far, the evidence suggests that it will not and that the G7 can strengthen security and ecological sustainability together at its Elmau Summit on June 26–28. The British-hosted G7 summit in Cornwall on June 11–13, 2021, set a new high in G7 action on climate change, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to take a significant toll. The G7's emergency virtual summit on February 24, 2022, held a few hours after the Russian invasion began, produced as much collective action on climate change, the environment and energy as it did on peace and security subjects, focused on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The subsequent G7 meetings of G7 leaders on March 11, agriculture ministers on March 11 and energy ministers on March 10 addressed both the escalating climate and ecological crises as well as the spiralling security one in Ukraine. Still, it will take a special effort to keep climate change at centre stage at the next G7 summit in Brussels on March 24 and at Elmau itself. This requires G7 leaders to make commitments that will strengthen democratic security and ecological stability together, both before and at their Elmau Summit.

The 2021 Cornwall Summit's Performance on Security and Sustainability

The G7's Cornwall Summit on June 11–13, 2021 performed strongly on climate change. It dedicated 3,843 words or 35% of its communiqués to the subject. This was the highest ever since 2009, and the second highest in the G7's 46-year history.

Climate change ranked third on commitments with 54. In second place was the broader environment with 55. Most of these environment commitments came in the stand-alone 2030 Nature Compact. And although energy ranked 12th, with 14 commitments, most had a target to meet global climate goals. Thus, if the G7's climate change, environment and energy commitments, then ecological sustainability ranks first by far, with 123 commitments. This is well above the 89 health commitments. It is even further above the 19 regional security commitments and 21 democracy commitments, for a combined 40, made at Cornwall.

Cornwall's climate performance also outperformed previous years on several other key indicators of plurilateral summit performance compared to previous years. Cornwall's climate passages made three links to the G7's foundational mission of democracy, the highest since 2014. It made 31 references to outside institutions, the most since 2015. And it made two references to institutions within the G7, the most since 2008.

Substantively, Cornwall also reinforced the importance of nature and biodiversity with the 2030 Nature Compact. It set new, more ambitious climate targets and committed to end new unabated overseas coal financing by the end of 2021. By February 2022 compliance with its climate, energy and environment commitments was strong. On the coal commitment, compliance was 88%, with all but Japan and Italy already fully complying. The commitment on zero emission vehicles also had 88%, with all but Japan and the United States fully complying. The one on renewable energy scored higher at 94%, held back again by Italy. On the environment, biodiversity had 100% and sustainable agriculture 81% but environmental crime only 63% and marine litter only 56%. Taken together, ecological sustainability had a combined average of 81% compliance, part way between the 2021 Cornwall Summit and the 2022 Elmau one.

Thus far, this 81% compliance on sustainability is better than the G7's 75% compliance on regional security. By February compliance with Cornwall's priority regional security commitment was 94%, with only France not fully complying. But regional security compliance was pulled down by the commitment on China and democracy, with 56% compliance and only the United Kingdom and United States fully complying, Italy not complying, and the others partially complying.

The German Presidency's Plan for the 2022 Elmau Summit

The 12-page document outlining the German presidency's priorities for the 2022 Elmau Summit put the planet first among its five priorities and integrated climate into its fourth priority of sustainable development and infrastructure. Among those five priorities, economic security came second, health security third, peace and security fourth, and the defence of liberal democracy fifth.

In the document, "climate change" appeared 37 times, "environment" 12 times, "biodiversity" 10 times and "energy" seven times, all in the context of lowering emissions. In sharp contrast, "peace and security" appeared only once, as the heading of a paragraph-long section that included preparing for climate-induced humanitarian crises. The word "security" appeared 13 times, but with meanings varying from social security to food security to internet security.

The February 24 G7 Virtual Summit's Performance on Security and Sustainability

The G7 held a special, virtual summit at 15h15 February 24, Berlin time (9h15 in Washington), shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine that day at 4h00 am Berlin time. The summit issued two documents, the G7 Leaders' Statement, with eight paragraphs, and the G7 Leaders' Statement on the Invasion of Ukraine by Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, with six paragraphs. Together they contained 649 words on climate change, for 38% of the total. The climate passages appeared once in the introductory paragraph of the Leaders' Statement and affirmed the value of human rights once. They made three commitments on climate change, six references to bodies inside the G7 and four to four outside ones.

Despite the outbreak of the war that morning, with eight commitments climate change ranked second highest by subject, following only health with 13, and ahead of third-placed peace and security with five, and democracy and infrastructure with four each (see Appendix A-1). Then came the environment and macroeconomics with three each, and energy and development with two each. Together the trilogy of climate change, the environment and energy had 13 commitments, or 25%, of the 52 commitments overall, as did health alone. The trilogy of peace and security, democracy and regional security had 12. There was no sign here of a strong diversionary security shock that crowded out action on climate change, due to the new war in Ukraine (see Appendix A-2).

G7 Performance on Security and Sustainability on March 10 and 11

The Ukraine crisis could still easily derail the G7's climate-focused agenda. And there are signs it has done so to some extent. On March 11, G7 leaders released a statement focused solely on Ukraine. It therefore did not mention climate change at all (see Appendix B-1). It did make two energy commitments, but neither spoke of a clean energy transition (see Appendix B-2). However, the G7's energy ministers, who met on March 10, the day before their leaders, made a clean energy transition a high priority in their own statement on Ukraine. The G7 energy ministers stated: "We remain steadfastly committed and convinced that the most important contribution towards energy security is an accelerated clean energy transition based on energy efficiency and a shift to the use of clean, safe and sustainable energies." Of their 13 commitments, nine (69%) explicitly referenced clean energy, the energy transition, climate change or the Paris Agreement (see Appendix C). Although the following day the agriculture ministers put less emphasis on climate change, two of their 15 commitments, for 13%, committed to support food security in line with climate, environment and sustainable development commitments (see Appendix D). This suggests that the Ukraine crisis will not totally overshadow climate governance before or at Elmau.

Strengthening Security and Sustainability Together

The G7 needs to respond to the war in Ukraine. But it also needs to ensure climate change remains a top priority. To address security and sustainability together, G7 leaders before and at Elmau should do several things.

In addition, the G7 should endorse the International Energy Agency's 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use, released on March 18, and commit to take immediate action. Those 10 points are:

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Appendix A: G7 Commitments Made on February 24, 2022

Appendix A-1: February 24 Commitments, by Subject

Subject

Number of Commitments

High binding

Low binding

Health

13

9

4

Climate change

8

3

5

Peace and security

5

4

1

Democracy

4

4

 

Infrastructure

4

3

1

Regional security

3

3

 

Environment

3

3

 

Macroeconomics

3

3

 

Energy

2

1

1

Development

2

1

1

Trade

1

1

 

International taxation

1

1

 

Human rights

1

1

 

Gender

1

1

 

Digital economy

1

1

 

Total

52

39

13

Appendix A-2: February 24 Commitment Text

Issue area and binding level are included in parenthesis at end of each commitment.

G7 Leaders' Statement (48)

2022-1: As open democracies, we are driven by [shared values and universal human rights,] our commitment to the rules-based multilateral system (peace and security) (high)

2022-2: As open democracies, we are driven by [shared values and universal human rights,] [our commitment to] sustainable development (development) (high)

2022-3: As open democracies, we are driven by [shared values and universal human rights,] [our commitment to] the needs of the wider global community. (peace and security) (high)

2022-4: We are united in our commitment to addressing both the biggest systemic challenges and immediate crises of our time. (peace and security) (high)

2022-5: We declare our unwavering support and solidarity for Ukraine (regional security) (high)

2022-6: More broadly, we commit to protect and strengthen democratic systems (democracy) (high)

2022-7: [More broadly, we commit to] step up our cooperation on global priorities such as climate (climate change) (high)

2022-8: [More broadly, we commit to step up our cooperation on global priorities such as] environment (environment) (high)

2022-9: [More broadly, we commit to step up our cooperation on global priorities such as] health. (health) (high)

2022-10: Working towards a sustainable planet, we reaffirm and will implement our climate commitments made in Paris and Glasgow across mitigation, adaptation and finance (climate change) (high)

2022-11: [Working towards a sustainable planet, we reaffirm and will implement our] wider commitments to the environment and biodiversity. (environment) (high)

2022-12: We continue to commit to a 1.5°C pathway, transition to a net-zero economy and climate neutrality by 2050 at latest, including through accelerated decarbonisation this decade. (climate change) (low)

2022-13: We will explore establishing an open, cooperative international Climate Club, consistent with international rules, and with participation beyond the G7. (climate change) (low)

2022-14: We are committed to achieving a true paradigm shift, by demonstrating that ambitious climate action is conducive to strong and sustainable growth for all economies. (climate change) (high)

2022-15: We task our relevant Ministers to make progress on concrete policies to effectively reduce emissions such as carbon pricing (climate change) (low)

2022-16: [We task our relevant Ministers to make progress on concrete policies] on a transformational agenda for our economies (climate change? Part of the same sentence as the two previous commitments) (low)

2022-17: [We task our relevant Ministers to make progress on concrete policies] on international support and engagement to partners beyond the G7 – in particular towards emerging markets and developing countries, including through tailor made just energy transition partnerships. (climate change? Part of the same sentence as the three previous commitments) (low)

2022-18: We recommit to the global mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. (environment) (high)

2022-19: We aim to deliver on economic stability and transformation. (macroeconomics) (high)

2022-20: Following unprecedented economic support for the global economy, stability- and growth-oriented economic policy and sound public finances shall guide our pathway to recovery that supports investment, quality job creation and prosperity for all. (macroeconomics) (high)

2022-21: In the face of current geopolitical tensions, pandemic-related uncertainties and macroeconomic challenges, notably including elevated inflation dynamics, we remain unwaveringly committed to driving strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive recovery and long-term growth in our economies and worldwide, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, enabling the green and digital transformation in a socially just and gender equitable way. (macroeconomics?) (high)

2022-22: We will support progress towards the global ambition of USD 100 bn of support to countries most in need, including through the voluntary channeling of Special Drawing Rights or equivalent contributions. (development) (low)

2022-23: We will also continue to monitor major global risks, including those arising from heightened geopolitical tensions. (peace and security) (low)

2022-24: We are committed to ensuring energy security. (energy) (high)

2022-25: Recalling the critical importance of free, fair and sustainable trade, we remain strongly committed to reforming and strengthening the rules-based multilateral trading system and will work together to bolster the resilience and sustainability of global supply chains and energy markets, while continuing to consult on collective approaches to policies and practices which undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy. (trade) (high)

2022-26: We reaffirm our commitment to ensure the swift global implementation of the historic 2021 G20/OECD two-pillar international tax package towards a fairer global tax system. (international taxation) (high)

2022-27: To promote healthy lives worldwide, we will step up our efforts to tackle COVID-19 (health) (high)

2022-28: [To promote healthy lives worldwide, we will step up our efforts to]…prepare for future pandemics and health crises globally. (health) (high)

2022-29: We reaffirm our commitment to support the leading and coordinating role of World Health Organisation (WHO) (health) (high)

2022-30: [We reaffirm our commitment to]…contribute to the WHO's goal of 70% COVID-19 vaccination coverage worldwide. (health) (high)

2022-31: We will support all pillars of the ACT-Accelerator. (health) (low)

2022-32: Our collective action will include following up on all of our 2021 commitments and making new commitments for 2022, including financial pledges and accompanying measures such as vaccine rollout. (health) (low)

2022-33: We will continue our collective efforts to end the pandemic in 2022 (health) (low)

2022-34: [We will continue out collective efforts to]…more broadly support health sovereignty at national and regional levels, including by intensifying our support to local vaccine production, distribution and scientific research worldwide. (health) (low)

2022-35: We will fortify long-term pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, including through the One-Health approach and further improving the coverage of pathogen surveillance networks (health) (high)

2022-36: [We will]…advance universal health coverage (health) (high)

2022-37: [We will]…strengthen equitable and resilient and gender-responsive health systems (health) (high)

2022-38: [We will…strengthen]…global health architecture while working towards appropriate financing mechanisms. (health) (high)

2022-39: We are committed to investing in a better future. (infrastructure) (high)

2022-40: We reconfirm our resolve to narrow the infrastructure investment gap in emerging markets and developing countries, through partnerships such as Build Back Better World, Global Gateway, Clean Green Initiative, G20 Compact with Africa and others, in particular in Africa and the Indo-Pacific. (infrastructure) (high)

2022-41: We will deliver a step change in our approach to sustainable financing and quality infrastructure, highlighting the importance of international rules and standards adhered to by all actors, thereby contributing to a strong and inclusive recovery from the pandemic and rapid progress towards global climate, health, food security, digital, transport and energy connectivity, education infrastructure, gender equality and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. (infrastructure) (high)

2022-42: To this end, we task relevant Ministers together with Sherpas, to work with developing country and emerging market partners, as well as International Finance Institutions and development banks, to build and strengthen regional and country-led partnerships. (infrastructure) (low)

2022-43: As a community based on shared values, we are committed to open, inclusive and equitable societies (democracy) (high)

2022-44: [As a community based on shared values, we are committed to]…democracy (democracy) (high)

2022-45: [As a community based on shared values, we are committed to]…human rights (human rights) (high)

2022-46: [As a community based on shared values, we are committed to]…freedom (democracy) (high)

2022-47: [As a community based on shared values, we are committed to]…gender equality (gender) (high)

2022-48: we are determined to shape the digital transformation, including by updating our regulatory frameworks. (digital economy) (high)

G7 Leaders' Statement on the Invasion of Ukraine by Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Commitments (4)

2022-49: We are committed to uphold peace, stability and international law. (peace and security) (high)

2022-50: We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders and territorial waters as well as the right of any sovereign state to determine its own future and security arrangements. (regional security) (high)

2022-51: We [stand united with partners, including NATO, the EU and their member states as well as Ukraine and] remain determined to do what is necessary to preserve the integrity of the rules-based international order. (regional security) (high)

2022-52: We support consistent and constructive engagement and coordination among major energy producers and consumers toward our collective interest in the stability of global energy supplies, and stand ready to act as needed to address potential disruptions. (energy) (low)

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Appendix B: G7 Commitments Made on March 11, 2022

Appendix B-1: March 24 Commitments, by Subject

Subject

Number of commitments

Human rights

3

Energy

2

Trade

2

Crime and corruption

7

Democracy

1

Food and agriculture

1

Macroeconomics

3

Note: all 19 commitments are core regional security or core peace and security commitments.

Appendix B-2: March 11 Commitments, by Subject

Issue area is included in parenthesis at end of each commitment.

2022-1: We call for, and commit to provide, humanitarian… support to refugees from Ukraine. (human rights)

2022-2: [We call for, and commit to provide]…medical… support to refugees from Ukraine. (human rights)

2022-3: [We call for, and commit to provide]…financial support to refugees from Ukraine. (human rights)

2022-4: In addition to announced plans, we will make further efforts to reduce our reliance on Russian energy, while ensuring that we do so in an orderly fashion and in ways that provide time for the world to secure alternative and sustainable supplies. (energy)

2022-5: We remain resolved to isolate Russia further from our economies and the international financial system. (macroeconomics)

Consequently, we commit to taking further measures as soon as possible in the context of our ongoing response and consistent with our respective legal authorities and processes:

2022-6: First, we will endeavor, consistent with our national processes, to take action that will deny Russia Most-Favoured-Nation status relating to key products. (trade)

2022-7: Second, we are working collectively to prevent Russia from obtaining financing from the leading multilateral financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. (macroeconomics)

2022-8: Third, we commit to continuing our campaign of pressure against Russian elites, proxies and oligarchs close to President Putin and other architects of the war as well as their families and their enablers. (crime and corruption)

2022-9: Fourth, we commit to maintaining the effectiveness of our restrictive measures, to cracking down on evasion and to closing loop-holes. (crime and corruption)

2022-10: Specifically, in addition to other measures planned to prevent evasion, we will ensure that the Russian state and elites, proxies and oligarchs cannot leverage digital assets as a means of evading or offsetting the impact of international sanctions, which will further limit their access to the global financial system. (crime and corruption)

2022-11: We commit to taking measures to better detect and interdict any illicit activity (crime and corruption)

2022-12: we will impose costs on illicit Russian actors using digital assets to enhance and transfer their wealth, consistent with our national processes. (crime and corruption)

2022-13: Fifth, we are resolved to fighting off the Russian regime's attempts to spread disinformation. (democracy)

2022-14: Sixth, we stand ready to impose further restrictions on exports and imports of key goods and technologies on the Russian Federation, which aim at denying Russia revenues and at ensuring that our citizens are not underwriting President Putin's war, consistent with national processes. (trade)

2022-15: We will make sure that the elites, proxies and oligarchs that support President Putin's war are deprived of their access to luxury goods and assets. (crime and corruption)

2022-16: Seventh, Russian entities directly or indirectly supporting the war should not have access to new debt and equity investments and other forms of international capital. (crime and corruption)

2022-17: We will continue working together to develop and implement measures that will further limit Russia's ability to raise money internationally. (macroeconomics)

2022-18: Together, we will work to preserve stability of energy markets (energy)

2022-19: [Together, we will work to preserve stability of]…food security globally as Russia's invasion threatens Ukraine's capacity to grow crops this year. (food and agriculture)

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Appendix C: G7 Energy Ministers Commitments, March 10, 2022

2022-1: We [welcome action taken by G7 members and others to assist Ukraine in addressing the challenges to its energy supply security resulting from Russia's aggression and] commit to increase our support.

2022-2: We [will act in solidarity and close coordination in the case of possible supply disruptions and] will do what is needed to mitigate the impact on our countries, economies and citizens, especially in order to protect vulnerable groups.

2022-3: We commit to continue working together to ensure diversification of energy sources, supplies, routes, and means of transport to build system resilience and promote competitive, reliable energy markets based on transparent rules.

2022-4: We remain steadfastly committed and convinced that the most important contribution towards energy security is an accelerated clean energy transition based on energy efficiency and a shift to the use of clean, safe and sustainable energies as well as electrification and the use of hydrogen from low carbon and renewable sources, including its derivatives.

2022-5: The current crisis has demonstrated the urgent need to step up our efforts and take immediate action to accelerate the energy transition in our countries and beyond.

2022-6: We resolve to accelerate the clean energy transition as a lasting solution to prevent energy price spikes and to ensure sufficient affordable energy supply, including through enabling large scale investment in energy and the technologies needed

2022-7: [We resolve to accelerate the clean energy transition as a lasting solution to prevent energy price spikes and to ensure sufficient affordable energy supply, including through]…ensuring universal energy access

2022-8: [We resolve to accelerate the clean energy transition as a lasting solution to prevent energy price spikes and to ensure sufficient affordable energy supply, including through]…uninterrupted flow of energy resources

2022-9: [We resolve to accelerate the clean energy transition as a lasting solution to prevent energy price spikes and to ensure sufficient affordable energy supply, including through]…consumer protection, especially for the most vulnerable populations.

2022-10: We resolve to implement our climate commitments made in Paris and Glasgow across mitigation, adaptation and finance.

2022-11: We will press forward with our joint G7 climate and energy agenda in order to make the 2020s a 'decade of action' for a 1.5° pathway, demonstrating steady and effective progress to our target of reaching Net Zero by 2050, at the latest.

2022-12: We will take stock of progress achieved at our joint Climate, Energy and Environment Ministerial meeting on 25-27 May 2022 in Berlin.

2022-13: If the situation so requires, we stand ready to meet again earlier in order to jointly address energy security challenges.

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Appendix D: G7 Agriculture Ministers Commitments, March 11, 2022

2022-1: We strive to provide national, bilateral and international support to help facilitate harvests in Ukraine and ensure the ability of Ukrainian farmers to feed their population and to contribute to global food security.

2022-2: We remain determined to do what is necessary to prevent and respond to a food crisis, including with humanitarian aid, and stand ready to act as needed to address potential disruptions.

2022-3: We commit to cooperating closely and taking concrete actions to safeguard global food security and nutrition, especially supporting food security for the people of Ukraine.

2022-4: Moreover, we will work together to address transportation challenges for food exports and commodity production.

2022-5: We will not tolerate artificially inflated prices that could diminish the availability of food and agricultural products.

2022-6: We will also fight against any speculative behaviour that endangers food security or access to food for vulnerable countries or populations.

2022-7: We will continue to share reliable data and information on global food market developments, especially through the relevant international organisations.

2022-8: We will work together to help ensure that sufficient, safe, affordable, and nutritious food continues to be available and accessible to all people, including the poorest, the most vulnerable, and displaced people in a timely, safe, and organised manner, and particularly for the people of Ukraine.

2022-9: We will continue to support food security in line with climate and environment commitments

2022-10: [We will continue to support food security]…in line with the sustainable development agenda.

2022-11: Together with G7 foreign and development ministers, we will continue our close cooperation within the G7 and with relevant international organisations, multilateral development banks and international financial institutions to respond to the impacts of the war on food security and nutrition.

2022-12: In this regard, we will inform one another

2022-13: [In this regard, we will]…strive to coordinate the measures we take to ensure food security and market stability, in respect of both Ukraine and countries and regions that may experience food insecurity.

2022-14: We will continue our close cooperation to respond to the impacts of the war, including on agricultural and food trade

2022-15: [We will continue our close cooperation to respond to the impacts of the war, including on]…food security and nutrition.

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