G7 performance on energy
G7 Summit

G7 performance on energy

Ella Kokotsis, director of accountability, G7 Research Group, asks whether the G7 can fully utilise clean energy as a key driver of jobs and growth without the collective support of all seven leaders

As G7 leaders gathered for the 2018 Charlevoix Summit, pundits questioned whether the United States, under President Donald Trump, would recognise clean energy as a key driver of jobs and economic growth, or whether Trump would push back even further than he already had on those key elements of the Paris Agreement aimed at decarbonising the energy sector.

Charlevoix produced a six-plus-one outcome with all but the United States agreeing on the importance of ensuring that energy systems drive sustainable economic growth by supporting clean energy innovation through investment in resilient energy systems and infrastructure. The United States unilaterally committed instead to work “closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently”.


Energy policy has been a cornerstone issue for the G7 since its first meeting in 1975 in Rambouillet, France. Here, the leaders noted their intent to “spare no effort in order to ensure more balanced conditions and a harmonious and steady development in the world energy market”.

By 1979, the G7 had made the first energy-climate connection, calling for “alternative sources of energy” that would “help prevent further pollution” caused by the “increases of carbon dioxide and sulphur oxides in the atmosphere”.

Over the next decade, the leaders acknowledged the need to halt the concentration of carbon dioxide in the world’s atmosphere through conservation, efficiency and energy alternatives.

By the early 2000s, direct linkages between energy security, economic growth, environmental protection and sustainable development were reinforced. Leaders increasingly supported the idea that improved energy efficiency and diversification of energy sources, largely through renewables, could help address climate change by reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of energy use and production.

Since 2005, the G7 has consistently pursued forward-looking energy policies, including diversifying the energy supply mix, encouraging the use of clean fossil fuels, promoting the development of renewable energy sources, endorsing investments in the energy sector, and expanding scientific and technological research and development.


Since 1975, the G7 has generated a total of 458 energy commitments as identified by the G7 Research Group. Energy policy ranks second, after development, in the total number of commitments made by summit leaders.

What began with three energy commitments at the first summit in 1975 quickly rose to 43 by 1979. The number of commitments on energy varied during the 1980s and 90s, ranging from zero to 23, and then spiked dramatically to 57 at the 2005 summit. The following year, Russia, hosting its first and only G8 summit, placed energy security at the forefront of the agenda, with that summit generating a record 78 energy commitments as a result.


The G7 Research Group has assessed 21 energy-related commitments made since 2001 for compliance by G7 members. It has found average compliance of 81%, higher than the 75% average across all issues assessed. The European Union, United States and United Kingdom rank as the first, second and third highest compliers, followed by Germany, Canada, France, Japan, Italy and Russia. Compliance has varied over time, with the highest scores generated after the 2005 and 2006 summits, when energy security was given priority on the leaders’ agenda.


These commitments only matter if they are complied with. The G7 can improve its compliance with its energy commitments by employing several accountability measures. One such measure is holding pre-summit ministerial meetings. Preliminary research from the G7 Research Group has found that compliance is higher on issues preceded by a supportive ministerial meeting.

Based on this research, the G7 should generate more energy commitments. The six summits that averaged the highest compliance (89%) generated 167 commitments altogether, compared to the 90 commitments produced by the five summits that averaged the lowest compliance (72%).

On substance, these commitments should diversify energy supplies, advance renewable technologies, invest in resilient energy systems, and find better solutions for the sustainable extraction and use of fossil fuels.

Ensuring open, transparent and secure global markets for energy resources and technologies will continue to be a top priority for the G7 leaders at Biarritz. Serious questions remain, however, on how energy resilience can advance when the G7 is trying to fill the leadership gap left by the United States. Leaders in Biarritz will remain committed to strengthening their collective energy security to ensure that energy systems continue to drive sustainable economic growth. To succeed, the United States must work with its G7 partners to ensure that open and secure global energy markets remain a top summit priority.