Will G-7 Summit World Leaders Commit to Climate Change Action?

06/04/2015 01:16 pm ET | Updated Jun 04, 2016

I hope G-7 world leaders will put their money where their mouth is on June 7 and 8 at the 41st G-7 Summit in Germany. The world leaders committed to reaching a global climate agreement by 2015. Worldwide environmental calamities are striking policymakers at the heart of the matter. A firm, collaborative plan of action, accompanied by financial backing, is just what's needed to address the problem, which threatens the world's economy, health, and future.

The Group of Seven is an assembly of the leaders of advanced industrial nations who come together to further common interests, across a range of economic, security and development priorities. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is hosting the event. Its theme, "Think Ahead. Act Together", gives one the expectation that decisive action will be taken. Leaders of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, the United States of America and Canada make up the G-7. The European Commission is also represented. Certainly, the most powerful people in the world should have the wisdom and the resources to address the most significant environmental issue of our age.

In the beginning of his administration, President Obama proposed to reduce green house gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020. By 2012, emissions had dropped by 12 percent. In New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait touts the President as a successful environmental leader, but agrees that much of the reduction in emissions is due to other factors not related to presidential policy. The recession meant that people stopped driving as much, and didn't use air conditioners. The price of natural gas dropped, and drillers decreased production.

The administration's desperate attempt to pull the country back from the brink of another Great Depression may have been the spark which ignited the green economy. The American Investment and Recovery Act's $90 billion in subsidies helped green companies to double wind-power generation and increase solar power by six times its previous output, according to Chait. The President has had some victories in his environmental policy, but it's not enough.

In 2011, former Vice President Al Gore, the climate-change advocate who sounded the alarm which woke up America to the crisis, called President Obama's environmental policies a failure. Gore said the President had not made a strong enough case for policy changes. His essay, "The Climate of Denial," featured in Rolling Stone Magazine cited specific cataclysmic events related to climate change. He gives examples of extreme heat, mega floods, melting ice, intense droughts, and other occurrences that seemed to be pulled straight from biblical prophesies. Only, these events are "in real time" and Gore emphasizes that the effects of global warming may cause the loss of large nations such as Spain, France, Italy, the Balkans, Turkey, and Tunisia.

Six of the warmest years on record for Italy were after the year 2000, according to Science on the Net. The region will suffer decreased water resources and the extinction of glaciers and mountain eco-systems. The heat waves will intensify affecting the weak and elderly in urban populations. Other countries face similar issues.

"A New Climate for Peace," an independent report that G-7 world leaders commissioned, similarly warns of "seven compound climate-fragility risks" associated with climate change. The report states that the challenges of global warming are compounded when confronted with socio-economic issues like inequality, urbanization, and economic shocks. It warns that high-unemployment will cause migration and an increase in illegal activity as people try to survive. According to the report, disasters and extreme weather conditions will, "endanger and destroy people's lives, livelihood, assets, health, and communities."

The report recommends integrating climate change issues into the peace-building process and overcoming the financial challenges such integration would face. A combined effort involving all stakeholders is the best chance of success in combating global warming.

Last year, Gore back-tracked on his criticism of U.S. environmental policy, citing President Obama's commitment to clean-energy programs and the country's reduction of energy intensity by 49 percent since 1980. According to Gore, there is new hope of winning the battle against global warming, since governments, corporations, and individual citizens are taking a more active role in climate protection.

Germany has been an aggressive champion for sound environmental policies. In 2014, they set a new record by generating 74 percent of their energy from renewable energy sources - wind and solar energy met much of the country's energy demand. It is a huge leap forward in Germany's plan, Energiewende, to power its country almost entirely on renewable energy by 2050, according to Kiley Kroh in Climate Progress.

In 2013, Bloomberg's Rainer Baake and Jennifer Morgan suggested that the United States should take lessons from Germany's environmental policies. Germany's Renewable Energy Act encouraged homeowners and businesses to invest in decentralized wind turbines and solar panels. The country has the most reliable power supplies in Europe, according to the article.

Germany's lead on climate change means it grapples with economic issues which arise from moving away from traditional energy sources. Caroline Copey thinks the country's goal of cutting green house gas emissions 40 percent by 2020 is in jeopardy. Union IG BCE says cutbacks in the coal plant sector could put 100,000 jobs at risk. The economics ministry is proposing to soften the CO2 emissions cuts which were approved in December's climate package, but a final decision is delayed until this summer. According to Copey, concerns about the economic effects of environmental reform could undermine Merkel's plan to encourage G-7 nations to commit to tough reform goals.

Still, Germany is the leader on environmental policy and climate protection achievement. The country's successes underscore the need for smart, aggressive action by world leaders to implement environmental policy which may still save human life on Earth.