The Nation / The G7 meets in England

Leaders of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations meet this Friday in England, determined to unite in the face of crises affecting the world, starting with the climate and the pandemic, with the distribution of one billion doses of vaccines against Covid-19.

Nearly two years later, face-to-face meetings are back and until Sunday there will be one-on-one meetings, a reception with Queen Elizabeth II and a barbecue on the beach where there will be no shortage of roasted marshmallows.

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The event brings together heads of state and government from Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom in the southwest port city of Carbis Bay. They will be joined by European officials and four invited countries: India, South Korea, Australia and South Africa. But host Boris Johnson won’t shake hands: the event is subject to restrictions in the UK which, with nearly 128,000 deaths from coronavirus, is now facing an increase in infections due to the delta variable.

This summit represents the United States’ “return” to multilateralism, in the words of President Joe Biden, after the isolationist years of Donald Trump. A US official said that would show that “we are united in our determination to defend democracy and shared democratic values ‚Äč‚Äčthat offer the best way (…) to meet the world’s greatest challenges.”

At the center of the talks will be the recovery of the global economy paralyzed by the pandemic and a more equitable distribution of vaccines against COVID-19. In the face of growing calls for solidarity, leaders will agree to provide “at least one billion doses” through their participation or funding and increase production capacity, with the goal of “ending the pandemic by 2022,” according to Downing Street.

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The US has already pledged to donate 500 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech and the UK 100 million surplus vaccines, primarily through the Covax programme. But it is not enough for NGOs like Oxfam, which recalls that at least 11 billion doses are needed to eradicate a pandemic that has already killed 3.7 million people.

In his view, the G7 should agree to suspend patents to allow mass production, a proposal that France and the United States have supported but which Germany strongly opposes. A quarter of the 2.3 billion doses administered worldwide to date have been in the G7 countries, which comprise only 10% of the world’s population. Low-income countries, as defined by the World Bank, currently have only 0.3% of injected doses.

Combating climate change will be the other priority of the Summit. Johnson has ambitions to implement a “green industrial revolution” to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. To preserve biodiversity, he wants the G7 to commit to protecting “at least 30%” of land and oceans by that date.

The G7 Club should also encourage investment in clean infrastructure in developing countries to stimulate and decarbonize their economies. According to the US official, the goal is to provide a counterweight to the “New Silk Roads”, a major project undertaken by China to build infrastructure abroad in order to increase its influence.

Already in May, G7 environment ministers pledged to end public aid to coal-fired power plants this year, promising to “make ambitious and accelerated efforts” to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. On the eve of the meeting, Johnson and Biden showed a common front on the climate emergency, and signed a new “Atlantic Charter” that also stresses the need to deal with cyberattacks. Johnson described the relationship between London and Washington as “indestructible”.

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But if the two great allies are attuned on major international issues such as challenges posed by China or Russia, then tensions persist over Northern Ireland, at the center of a post-Brexit dispute between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Biden has refrained from public criticism, but European leaders intend to remind Johnson of his commitment to the signed agreements, which London is violating because of the tensions it is causing in that British region. According to local police, around 3,000 people protested in Belfast on Thursday night against the new measures after Brexit.

Source: AFP.

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