(Bloomberg) -- Group of Seven nations are butting heads over the timeline for phasing out coal-fired power ahead of next weekend’s summit of top energy and environmental ministers. 

Draft communique documents circulated before negotiations resume Tuesday and seen by Bloomberg News show the European Union, the US and Japan expressed reservations about a UK proposal to set a 2030 deadline for phasing out unabated domestic coal power generation. The language, which won France’s backing, also would have recognized the need to “cancel the pipeline of new global coal power generation projects,” and therefore have the G-7 countries committing to end construction of new domestic coal-fired power plants and work with international partners to end similar efforts globally. 

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While Japan, the US and EU indicated reservations, Germany offered alternative language that would have emphasized the goal of phasing out domestic unabated coal power generation “ideally by 2030” or “in the 2030s.” Japan, which hosts the G-7 this year, has proposed reaffirming the commitment in last year’s G-7 leaders’ statement  “to achieving a fully or predominantly decarbonized power sector by 2035.” 

Representatives with the EU Commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment lodged during a European holiday. An official with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry wasn't immediately available to comment. The US State Department did not comment. 

The deliberations may reflect uneasiness about the technical ability of central and eastern European countries to meet a 2030 deadline and, in the US, about the political repercussions of the federal government embracing a firm end date for coal. But they risk showing G-7 nations are less resolved to consign coal to history months ahead of a critical UN climate summit in Dubai where nearly 200 nations will be pressed to phase out the fossil fuel. 

The risk is that the final G-7 communique from the summit on April 15 and 16 in Sapporo, Japan, will provide fodder to other countries critical of rich nations’ progress on and commitment to combating global warming, said Alden Meyer, a senior associate at the consultancy E3G. 

“Every time they start having carveouts on fossil fuel finance or road transport or unabated coal, they give other countries excuses to say, ‘Well you talk a big game, but you’re not delivering at home,’” Meyer said. “They should be trying to build on the last two G-7s under the UK and Germany, but they’re in danger of at least stalling out — if not backsliding — on some fronts.” 

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Negotiators, who huddled for a week in virtual meetings at the end of March, also are still sparring over Japan’s push for language endorsing the use of hydrogen and ammonia produced from it as a power source. Several countries have pushed to qualify that support, saying its use must be consistent with other climate and decarbonization goals and only occur when associated nitrogen oxide pollution is squelched. 

Amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, Japan also has encouraged language supporting investments in natural gas and LNG to “bridge the gap” securing affordable energy supplies — an effort that dovetails with an appeal by many US business groups. But several countries have pushed back, with the US encouraging a caveat that natural gas should be a transition energy source only “for those countries that can afford it and are committed to” a shift toward net zero energy. 

Japan’s fossil fuel lobbying efforts ahead of the Sapporo meeting contradict commitments the group’s energy and environment ministers made previously, according to a report released Tuesday from nonprofit group Oil Change International. The G-7 pledged last year to “end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022, except in limited circumstances clearly defined by each country that are consistent with a 1.5 °C warming limit.’’

Japan isn’t the only country failing to live up to previous promises. Public finance support in Germany and Italy for fossil fuel projects also doesn’t align with climate pledges the group’s energy and environment ministers made last year, OCI said. G-7 public finance flows to fossil fuel projects between 2020 and 2022 were at least $73 billion, more than double the $28.6 billion that went to clean energy over the same period, according to the report.

--With assistance from Ewa Krukowska, Shoko Oda and Aaron Clark.

(Updates with details from report in penultimate and last paragraphs.)

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