Progress on climate change could be thwarted by developing nations if they are not given equitable access to vaccines, Boris Johnson warned, as wealthy nations come under new pressure to donate more doses.
Figures compiled by the Observer show that the richest nations, including the UK, have enough vaccines to inoculate their populations more than double.
Ahead of a three-day G7 summit set to kick off in Cornwall on Friday, a growing number of influential figures believe that failure to agree on a vaccination plan for the poorest countries could lead them to refuse or not be able to work with the countries. rich in the battle against the weather. crisis.
Johnson will seek to defuse tensions on Sunday by calling on the world’s richest nations to help vaccinate the entire world’s population by the end of 2022. “Vaccinating the world by the end of next year would be the greatest feat in the history of medicine.” said the prime minister said. “I call on my fellow G7 leaders to join us in ending this terrible pandemic and I promise that we will never allow the devastation caused by the coronavirus to happen again.”
In a key week for UK diplomacy, Johnson hopes to use the G7 meeting to lay the groundwork for COP26, the vital UN climate summit to be held in Glasgow in November, at which rich nations are expected to and in development send delegations. But as wealthy nations face accusations of stockpiling vaccines, Paul Polman, a former Unilever chief executive and president of the International Chamber of Commerce, said the two biggest global challenges were becoming more and more dangerously linked.
“We cannot have global solidarity and confidence to address climate change if we do not show solidarity with vaccines,” Polman said. “Developing countries will not come with more ambitious goals [on emissions] if they don’t see that developed countries show some solidarity with vaccines and climate finance ”.
The chances of success at Cop26, Polman said, “will be significantly greater if we address this vaccine problem.”
Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland agreed that vaccines are closely linked to climate action.
“There is an obvious link between equitable access to vaccines and action on climate change,” he said. “Only if we invest in equitable access to vaccines and oppose vaccine nationalism will we defeat Covid-19. Only by ensuring that all countries can meet their climate challenges can we reach meaningful agreement on the way forward. “
Greta Thunberg, the climate activist, has said she will boycott Cop26 unless developing countries get their fair share of vaccines, and some NGOs have called on developing countries in talks to do the same.
Joss Garman, UK director of the European Climate Foundation and a former Labor Party adviser on the environment, said there was a risk that the Cop26 talks could suffer the same fate as the collapsed Copenhagen summit in 2009 unless it was reached. to an agreement on vaccines.
“The savage impact of Covid is costing developing countries around $ 1 trillion every year,” Garman said. “Overwhelmed by this immediate and ongoing health and financial crisis, nearly 100 countries have yet to present their climate plan for Cop26.
Others have explicitly made their carbon efforts dependent on increased assistance from rich countries. Unless the G7 comes up with a package on vaccines and debt relief, success at Cop26 could be in real jeopardy. “
A senior government source said UK ministers realized that the needs of developing nations on issues such as vaccines, debt relief and access to green funds needed to be addressed for COP26 to be a success.
“We know that developing countries want the G7 to recognize that there is now a triple injustice: they didn’t burn fossil fuels in the first place to develop their economies, they don’t have the cash to protect themselves from climate change, and they don’t have the shocks to protect themselves from Covid. The Prime Minister’s Vaccine Sharing Promise is all about recognizing this: it is an act of solidarity and there will be more ahead of this G7 as the UK shows that it is determined to make Cop26 work for everyone, especially vulnerable countries. to the weather ”.
The new data shows that Canada, the UK, the EU, the US and Japan have collectively purchased 5.3 billion doses of vaccines despite having a collective population of just over a billion, according to the Center for Innovation. in Global Health from Duke University in the US Considering that most vaccines require two doses for full vaccination, it means that the richest countries in the world could “vaccinate twice” their entire population and keep plenty to spare.
Canada has the highest number of doses purchased per head, with a total of 381 million doses of vaccines purchased for a population of just over 37 million. That would be enough to give each person 10 doses if all vaccines pass phase 3 trials.
The United Kingdom will have enough doses to give each of its inhabitants seven doses, the EU six per person, the United States three per person and Japan two per person.
By comparison, most low- and middle-income countries are struggling to acquire doses through direct agreements or the Covax global vaccine exchange initiative. Colombia and Indonesia currently have enough to give an average of 0.9 doses per person, South Africa has 0.5 doses per person and Pakistan only 0.1.
Johnson has previously pledged to donate most of the UK’s surplus vaccine supply to poorer countries, but this process has yet to begin.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism