G7 leaders have agreed to phase out fossil fuel emissions this century in the fight against climate change. The decision has been called historic but are oil, gas and coal companies ready to implement it? David Pollard reports.
Big words call for big deeds. This laser projection stretched a kilometre across a German mountainside. Greenpeace making its clean energy demands clear to G7 leaders meeting nearby at their Elmau summit. But, after a G7 pledge to get rid of carbon fuels by the end of the century, ultimately giving them a rare thumbs up. Greenpeace spokesman Martin Kaiser. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE POLITICS AT GREENPEACE, MARTIN KAISER, SAYING: "Elmau has delivered. With the decisions on climate change, the vision of a 100% renewable energy supply has got contour. Elmau has also given a clear signal that by the mid-century you have to faze out coal and oil, out of the energy system." With both oil and coal still global energy staples, that's easier said than done. Here, at least the coal's cleaner. Canada's Saskpower Boundary Dam Carbon Capture Storage project. It's a coal-fired plant that removes nearly all sulphur and carbon emissions, while generating power for 100,000 homes. Expensive technology, but a world first, says Saskpower's Boundary Dam chief Mike Monea. Even if it does come in an age of austerity. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MIKE MONEA, HEAD OF THE BOUNDARY DAM CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE (CCS) POWER STATION, SASKPOWER, SAYING: ''The world economy is suffering, is hurting right now. And it's very difficult for government's to spend money to subsidise innovation for cleaning up a fossil fuel. It just is. It's difficult for companies to spend money to clean up products, unless you're forced to. It does cost money.'' Another challenge may be a united front. With an eye to the targets that may come out of the UN climate change conference later this year, European oil companies are calling for a global price on carbon emissions. That's been seen as a bid to force market share from coal to environmentally cleaner natural gas. With renewable energy getting cheaper, the sector faces new realities. CEBR's Vicky Pryce. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER AT CEBR (CENTER FOR ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS RESEARCH), VICKY PRYCE, SAYING: ''We have seen US firms not quite so keen, but even US firms are moving in that direction. So I think there is a belief now that something can be done globally in terms of influencing how much, in particular, fossil fuels are used, and if there is a global carbon tax, that would be pretty good news.'' Not such good news for environmentalists are the forecasts. Oil consumption is seen rising by 15 per cent over the next 25 years. The global trade in coal - so out of sync with the post-industrial age, according to its critics - is seen increasing by 40%, mostly on stronger demand from Asia.