Climate change rift raises temperature for G7 meet in Bologna

G7 environment chiefs meet in Italy Sunday for potentially difficult talks 10 days after Donald Trump sparked a rift with US partners by pulling out of the Paris climate change accord.

Climate change rift raises temperature for G7 meet in Bologna
Protests against the US decision to pull out of the Paris accord are planned in Bologna on Sunday. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Scott Pruitt, a friend of the oil industry who is sceptical about man-made climate change and was Trump's controversial choice to head the US Environmental Protection Agency, will represent Washington's interests at the two-day meeting.

Up against him will be the likes of Barbara Hendricks, the German environment minister who once tried to ban meat from her ministry's catering on the grounds it was bad for the planet.

And France is deploying prominent Green campaigner Nicolas Hulot, new President Emmanuel Macron's high-profile pick for the environment brief.

Italy's large environmentalist movement has also vowed to make its voice heard. A major demonstration against Trump's decision is planned for Sunday afternoon in Bologna, an ancient university city and bastion of progressive activism.

“We are expecting a good turnout. A lot of people are very upset about Trump's decision and it has started a new debate,” Giacomo Cossu, one of the organisers of the demonstration, told AFP.

Trump announced at the start of this month that the US would not abide by the 2015 Paris agreement and would seek to renegotiate terms he denounced as unfairly damaging to the American economy and overly generous to India and China.

A spokesman for Hendricks said Germany would be looking for “something more concrete” from Pruitt in terms of what the US was going to do.

Trump has said Washington will not be bound by the targets on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases set down in Paris, and will cut funding for developing countries affected by climate change.

'No change to the trend'

But many analysts say Trump's rhetoric may make little difference. Important players in US industry and individual cities and states are already implementing changes aimed at meeting the targets laid down in Paris, where most of the world's countries agreed to try and cap global temperature rises at 2C above preindustrial levels.

Germany and California, the US's wealthiest state, agreed Saturday to work together to keep the Paris accords on track.

“The world is already turning carbon-free and I think there will be no change to this broad trend,” Japan's Environment Minister Koichi Yamamoto said after Trump's announcement of his decision on Paris.

“So far there's only been an announcement that the US is withdrawing, it has not yet materialised. So we're going to keep trying to persuade them.”

Scientists warn that failing to contain climate change will have devastating consequences as sea levels rise and extreme storms, droughts and heatwaves become more common, endangering crops and fragile environments with knock-on effects in the form of new conflicts and mass fluxes of people escaping affected areas.

Officials were unable to offer any guidance as to what kind of statement the meeting could produce.

When G7 leaders met in Sicily last month, they publicly recognised that the US was isolated on the climate issue, with the other six member countries vowing to continue their efforts to address global warming by curbing emissions while promoting green technology and renewable energy forms.

The G7 is made up Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, the world's seven biggest economies when the club was formed. The discussions in Bologna will also be attended by Chile, the Maldives, Ethiopia and Rwanda, four developing countries with a particular interest in combatting climate change.


From Venice to Mont Blanc, how is the climate crisis affecting Italy?

The impact of global heating that scientists have been warning about for years is here, according to a United Nations report. From more heatwaves to rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities like Venice, here's how it will affect Italy.

From Venice to Mont Blanc, how is the climate crisis affecting Italy?

“Widespread, rapid and intensifying” is the headline of a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Scientists have observed changes in the climate across the entire Earth, across every region – a phenomenon that is being felt strongly in Italy as wildfires and blistering heatwaves sweep the country, with 17 cities on red warning weather alerts this weekend.

The Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif is also currently at melting point and could collapse, threatening the village below, while the heat in Sicily is set to break European records with a scorching 48.8 degrees C reported near Syracuse on Wednesday.

Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, revealed the report by the United Nations body for assessing climate change.

Some of the developments already happening, such as rising sea levels, are said to be irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.

Scientists have said that it is already too late to do anything about some of the climate change witnessed in parts of the world and that global temperatures could rise by 1.5 degrees this century.

The report, which three Italian academics contributed to, projects that in the coming decades climate changes will increase in all regions.

If 1.5 degrees C of global warming is reached, there will be increased heatwaves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons.

At 2 degrees C of global warming, heat extremes would reach critical levels for agriculture and health more often, the report showed.


“An alarming picture emerges from the latest UN report on climate. It is an issue that concerns all of us and every aspect of our lives,” wrote Italy’s foreign minister Luigi Di Maio on Facebook.

Rising temperatures aren’t the only major concern. Climate change is creating shifts in wetness and dryness, winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans, according to the findings.

In Europe, regardless of future levels of global warming, temperatures will rise in all European areas “at a rate exceeding global mean temperature changes,” the report found.

In the Mediterranean region, scientists have observed an increase in droughts and project an increase in aridity and fire weather conditions at global warming of 2 degrees C and above.

By the middle of the century, more extreme weather temperatures are expected, along with more droughts and less snow and wind.

Coastal areas are expected to witness continued sea-level rises throughout the 21st century, which could lead to more frequent and severe flooding and coastal erosion. Extreme sea-level events that used to occur once every 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century, scientists warned.

READ ALSO: World Ocean Day: What is Italy doing to protect its seas?

Environmental protesters from the “No Grandi Navi” group demonstrate against the presence of cruise ships in Venice’s lagoon. Photo: MARCO SABADIN/AFP

Based on the IPCC’s report, NASA has created a sea level change tool to see how rising ocean levels would affect different parts of the world.

If no additional climate policies are adopted, Venice could experience an increase in sea levels by as much as 0.87 metres by the end of the century.

Even if global warming levels don’t exceed 1.5 degrees C by 2100 (compared to temperatures in the 1850-1900 period) – and if net zero emissions are achieved by the middle of the century, sea levels around Venice are expected to rise by 3.2mm per year.

That makes an increase of 0.41 metres by the end of the century, as the minimum.

These are devastating statistics for a city already under environmental threat – with the city narrowly avoiding being put on the Unesco endangered list after Italy recently moved to ban large cruise ships from sailing into the city centre

ANALYSIS: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from the lagoon at last?

Other parts of Italy are also under similar levels of danger from rising sea levels, with Cagliari in Sardinia forecast to experience an increase of 0.88 metres by 2100 if no climate change measures are made.

“This report is a reality check,” said IPCC co-chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte.

Rising temperatures have led to more wildfires in Italy this summer. Photo: MASSIMO LOCCI/AFP

“It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” she added.

Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are responsible for about 1.1 degrees of warming compared to the period 1850-1900, the report revealed.

“The evidence is clear that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of climate change, even as other greenhouse gases and air pollutants also affect the climate,” stated the report.

The report also shows that human actions can still determine the Earth’s climate in the future for the better.

“We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare,” she added.

READ ALSO: Climate campaigners sue Italian government for failing to tackle climate crisis

Scientists on Italy’s side of the Mont Blanc massif are constantly monitoring a melting glacier, where the risk of collapse due to rising temperatures threatens the valley below. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

What is Italy doing to fight climate change?

Italy is already facing extreme climate change events – it ranked first in the European Union for the number of major fires in 2021, according to the EU Commission.

It is also lagging behind in the objectives of the Recovery and Resilience Plan and much more needs to be done, according to Italian environmental group Legambiente.

Campaigners criticised the 750-billion-euro pandemic Recovery Fund, which included the aim of Italy becoming “carbon free” by 2050, for not being ambitious enough.

However, the government is preparing to appoint a representative by September to tackle the problems posed by climate change.

“We need to give an effective response, without wasting time. This is why we have decided to provide our country with a strategic figure in this field, namely the special envoy for climate change, as has already been done by the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany,” stated Di Maio.

This person will be in charge “following the negotiations and representing Italy at all international tables,” he added.

READ ALSO: Italy postpones plastic tax again due to Covid-19 pandemic

Experts have called for immediate action with faster timelines: the goal of climate neutrality, set for 2050, should be brought forward, stated former environment minister Edo Ronchi, who has called on Italy to adopt “a law to protect the climate”.

“Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming,” said IPCC co-chair Panmao Zhai.

“Stabilising the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate,” he added.