The G7 expanding the use of fossil gas is ‘shock doctrine’ politics

G7 leaders stand together in a line at the Hiroshima summit in May 2023.
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From 19 to 21 May, the Group of Seven (G7) met in Hiroshima, Japan for its annual summit. There, the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, and Japan held talks on global economic, energy, and security policy. Significantly, action to address the climate crisis and the approach to fossil fuels were among the critical topics discussed at the forum.

However, climate justice groups have criticised the outcome of the talks. In particular, they pointed out the hypocrisy of the G7’s intention to maintain the public financing of fossil gas.

Head of global policy strategy at Climate Action Network International Harjeet Singh said that the G7 leaders were “paying lip-service” to their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. Moreover, he stated that:

continuing to invest in gas shows a bizarre political disconnect from science and a complete disregard of the climate emergency.

‘Shock doctrine’ politics

The G7 has argued that public finance for fossil gas is currently necessary as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war has disrupted major supply pipelines such as Nord Stream 1, which carries gas into Europe.

However, in a 2022 report, Greenpeace suggested that fossil fuel companies were driving this rhetoric. It described fossil fuel companies’ capitalisation on the gas supply crisis as “one of the most blatant examples of ‘shock doctrine’”.

Author Naomi Klein coined this use of the term in her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In a 2017 article for the Guardian, she described the concept as:

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the brutal tactic of using the public’s disorientation following a collective shock – wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes or natural disasters – to push through radical pro-corporate measures, often called “shock therapy”.

Weaponising disaster

In this instance, Greenpeace highlighted how gas corporations had weaponised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to influence Global North governments’ policy around fossil gas:

gas operators quickly shifted their public messaging and lobbying from “energy transition” to “energy security” and cynically used the opportunity to frighten governments into massive, unneeded investment into and expansion of fossil gas imports and infrastructure.”

The G7 leaders’ latest communique is a case in point of this shock doctrine operating in practice. It stated that the group stresses:

the important role that increased deliveries of LNG [Liquified Natural Gas] can play, and acknowledge that investment in the sector can be appropriate in response to the current crisis and to address potential gas market shortfalls provoked by the crisis.

‘LNG’ refers to fossil gas which has been cooled to liquid form for easier transportation. In short, gas companies and Global North governments are profiting off of this fossil fuel disaster capitalism.

‘Caving in to the gas industry’

Following a previous G7 meeting in June 2022, Oil Change International accused the group of “caving in to the gas industry”. Co-lead of the group’s global public finance campaign Laurie van der Burg said that the G7 had:

prioritized filling the pockets of the fossil gas industry over protecting peoples’ lives.

Little has changed. The G7 remain beholden to the interests of profiteering fossil fuel corporations. Moreover, the seven wealthy nations were more than content to extend their dependence on fossil gas and delay financing a global green transition. The war in Ukraine simply provided an opportune moment to shirk their responsibility to bring an end to the polluting, destructive gas industry.

Part two of this series on the summit will examine how the G7’s profiteering comes at the expense of the Global South.

Feature image via The White House/Wikimedia, public domain, resized to 1910*1000.

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