World leaders at the G-7 summit on Monday made one of the boldest declarations yet in the fight against climate change when nations endorsed a goal of zero carbon emissions worldwide by the century's end.
That goal—and the fact that countries such as Japan and Canada that have long been hesitant to commit to substantial carbon cuts signed onto it—signals momentum in the lead-up to make-or-break United Nations Paris climate talks later this year. The rallying cry will also send a signal to world markets that the days of unchecked emissions from coal and natural gas could be numbered.
"I think this increases the chances for success in Paris to have major economies engaged on this now and to see leaders like Angela Merkel really pushing for climate action," said Jennifer Morgan, the global director of the World Resources Institute's climate program.
But while the intent may be bold, nothing about the G-7 declaration is binding. And Monday's pledge contained few details on how the seven nations plan to push the rest of the world to dial back greenhouse-gas emissions. As a result, whether the commitments will translate from words on a page into concrete action remains unclear.
"The conversation has shifted to a discussion about how to decarbonize the entire global economy," Jamie Henn, a spokesman for grassroots environmental group 350.org said. "World leaders have pointed to the destination, but there's a lot more to be done on how we're actually going to get there."