G7 mulls call for ‘necessary’ public gas investments

MUNICH, Germany — A proposal under discussion by the G7 would call for using tax money for natural gas projects as a response to Russia’s war in Ukraine — potentially clashing with the group’s climate pledges.

A draft section of the communiqué, yet to be agreed by the leaders of G7, acknowledges that “publicly supported” investments in natural gas projects are “necessary” to quell the current energy crisis, so long as they avoid bedding in decades of reliance on the fossil fuel and derailing efforts to limit global warming, according to two people who have seen the draft.

G7 ministers agreed to similar language in May. The text of the communique is under intense negotiation and is likely to change.

The group, which includes seven economic powers and the EU, have committed to rapidly scrub their economies of fossil fuels during this decade, signing multiple declarations over the past year driving at a safer climate. But when the leaders arrive at the Bavarian castle of Schloss Elmau on Sunday, they will be under competing pressure to address ballooning energy prices and the effort to free the EU of its energy dependence on Russia.

That has led several EU governments to reboot coal plants and to search for new sources of gas.

European leaders, most notably the G7 host and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, have courted African nations looking to build natural gas export industries to Europe. The EU and Norway also struck a deal Thursday to boost gas deliveries.

If the G7’s energy security policy involves public financing of overseas projects, it would rub against a commitment made by all members of the group — except Japan and the EU — at the COP26 climate talks last year to stop public support for international fossil fuel investments by the end of 2022, except in “limited and clearly defined circumstances.” The pledge was then made by all G7 ministers in May.

“Backtracking” on those pledges, said Luca Bergamaschi, the founder of the ECCØ think tank and a former Italian government negotiator, “would mark the failure of this G7.”

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