The G7, an exclusive club comprising the world’s largest “advanced economies,” began life in 1975 as the Group of Six, was renamed the Group of Seven when Canada joined in 1976, it became the Group of the Eight when Russia was added in 1997 and then fell back to the Group of Seven in 2014 when Russia was ousted. In the world of 2021, it seems a bit anachronistic, but a lot is expected of it.
Boris Johnson, who will host this year’s three-day summit in Cornwall starting Friday, is busy talking about it and calling it a “historic moment for the planet.” For the prime minister, it is a golden opportunity to showcase “global Britain” and show how, in his shortsighted view, the break with the EU has given the country new life as an international “force for good.”
Another anachronistic aspect of this event, which will be attended by the leaders of the United States, Germany, Japan, France, Italy and Canada, is the absence of the country that, according to most estimates, will soon be the largest economy of all: China. Also worrying is the fact that these seven countries, which represent one-tenth of the world’s population, control a whopping 40% of global GDP.
It is no wonder that many in the developing world look askance at what they see as a clique of wealthy men claiming to run international affairs on the basis of an outdated global hierarchical order created several decades ago. It’s no wonder the G7’s usefulness is questioned when, as Johnson is doing now, its members speak out and fail to deliver on their promises. Delivery is everything.
Undeterred, Johnson has set some highly challenging summit goals: leading the global post-pandemic recovery, addressing climate change, promoting free trade, and “upholding our shared values.” Sounds good. However, civil society groups say the agenda is actually not ambitious enough, for example, to address racial and gender equality.
Johnson’s main announcement has already been followed: a call for “concrete commitments” to vaccinate the entire world by the end of 2022. This, if accomplished, would be “the greatest feat in medical history,” he will say, and would place the G7 (and not China) leading a global recovery. Britain will announce plans to donate doses of vaccines to countries most in need.
But this feel-good statement leaves key questions about patent resources, availability and sharing unanswered at a time when the international Covax scheme cannot guarantee equitable access to vaccines for all. An impressive vote from the G7 to build a pandemic-proof country global health system countering future threats is another fine aspiration that will be difficult to meet and finance.
Johnson says he wants the summit to focus on “creating a greener and more prosperous future” and will urge other leaders to reach the UK’s goal of cutting carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. All very well, but be urgently needs more. Rich countries have a lousy record in helping the poorest to fight climate change, and they are still investing more in fossil fuels than clean energy.
The United States and the United Kingdom are the only two G7 countries to have tabled proposals in recent months to increase climate finance to help the poorest countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of extreme weather. according to a new report. The 2009 promise to provide $ 100 billion a year to developing countries by 2020 has been broken, the researchers say.
Changes in international tax rules governing multinationals are welcome. But there will be skepticism about other all-too-familiar goals of the G7, such as increasing the world’s total of children in full-time education. Promoting multilateralism and shared democratic values in opposition to China, Russia and similar authoritarian regimes is a difficult enough task with no obvious goals of its own, such as Johnson’s deplorable £ 4 billion cut in UK foreign aid. How does that help girls go to school in Afghanistan?
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism