(Sapporo) The G7 industrialized countries pledged on Sunday to “accelerate” their “exit” from fossil fuels in all sectors, but without setting a new deadline, and agreed to jointly aim for zero new plastic pollution by 2040.

Their promise to get out of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) does not, however, concern those that are accompanied by CO2 capture and storage devices, specifies the joint press release from the Ministers of Climate, Energy and the Environment. of the G7, meeting since Saturday in Sapporo (northern Japan).

Instead of a precise timetable, these major industrialized countries (United States, Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Canada) enshrine this goal more vaguely in their efforts to achieve energy carbon neutrality by 2050 ” at the latest “.

They had already committed last year to mainly decarbonize their electricity sectors by 2035, a goal reconfirmed on Sunday.

At the environmental level, the G7 countries have promised to reduce their additional plastic pollution to zero by 2040, thanks in particular to the circular economy, the reduction or abandonment of disposable and non-recyclable plastics.

Germany, France, the EU, the UK and Canada are already part of an international coalition that made the same commitment last year. But this is the first time that the United States, Japan and Italy have joined them.

This is thus a “strong signal” before the next negotiation session for an international treaty on plastic at the end of May in Paris, welcomed in a press release the French Minister for Ecological Transition Christophe Béchu.

The stakes are high: the amount of plastic waste has doubled in the world in 20 years, and only 9% of it is actually recycled, according to the OECD. And the UN estimates that the amount of plastic dumped into the oceans will almost triple by 2040.

The decision to get out of all fossil fuels marks a “strong step forward”, also welcomed in an interview with AFP the French Minister for Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher.

“It’s an important starting point to be able to expand this approach” to the G20 in India and the UN climate conference (COP28) in Dubai later this year, she said. admitting that these future global negotiations “are not going to be easy”.

According to the IPCC, global warming caused by human activity will reach 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial era as early as 2030-2035. This further jeopardizes the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit the rise in temperatures to this level, or at least well below 2°C.

The G7 also reaffirmed on Sunday its commitment to work with other developed countries to raise 100 billion dollars a year for emerging countries against global warming, a promise dating from 2009 and which was initially to be kept from 2020.

A summit to improve access to climate finance for developing countries, a sensitive and crucial point, is notably scheduled for the end of June in Paris.

Due to the very tense global geopolitical context with the war in Ukraine since last year and Japan’s conservative proposals on natural gas, environmental NGOs feared that the Sapporo meeting would lead to a regression.

The G7 recognized like last year that investments in natural gas “may be appropriate” to help some countries through the current energy crisis. But the primacy of a “clean” energy transition and the need to reduce gas demand were underscored at the same time.

The other Japanese proposal to have ammonia and hydrogen recognized as “clean” co-fuels for thermal power plants was also surrounded by safeguards. These technologies must be developed from “low-carbon and renewable” sources, the G7 insisted.

Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura, however, expressed satisfaction that the G7 recognized “diverse paths to achieving carbon neutrality”.

Questioned by AFP, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Fatih Birol also welcomed a message from the G7 “combining our concerns for energy security while providing a roadmap in the face of the climate crisis”.

Environmental NGOs, on the other hand, were disappointed. “No offense to the rhetorical games of G7 ministers, new gas investments […] cannot be compatible” with their climate objectives, criticized Collin Rees of Oil Change International.

“There are positives” in the G7 announcements “but it still lacks ambition” up to the challenges, also estimated Daniel Read of Greenpeace.