Global Affairs

G7- A Colossal Failure for Environmental Action and Investment

With little more than six months until UNCOP26, international figures and governments need to raise ambition and work constructively worldwide to deliver climate action and mitigation against environmental degradation and biodiversity loss on a global scale. The existing commitments of international governments still need to be made more ambitious to keep warming to 1.5C and protect biodiversity. And yet, it has been argued that the precursing summit held in Cornwall, G7 2021, has failed on a colossal scale in creating any sustainable policies. 

According to many economists and activists, this three-day meeting between the leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations was nothing short of a failure. It has been argued that the summit fell short of its standards to agree on comprehensive action to tackle the climate crisis and the COVID pandemic.

Greta Thunberg has damned the summit which invited leaders of the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. Taking to Twitter Thunberg called out those present for their failure in taking the climate and ecological crisis seriously. “G7 spends fantasy amounts on fossil fuels as CO2 emissions are forecast for 2nd biggest annual rise ever,” wrote Thunberg. “This calls for steak-and-lobster-BBQ-celebration while jet planes perform aerobatics in the sky above the G7 resort!” In a follow-up tweet, she added, “The G7 leaders seem to be having a good time presenting their empty climate commitments and repeating old unfulfilled promises.” Her tweet followed after photos from one of the final summit events were shared by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, showing world leaders like President Emmanuel Macron and President Joe Biden enjoying drinks, a barbeque and a performance by the Red Arrows jet planes. Johnson was earlier criticised for flying to the event in England,  one of the most environmentally destructive, high-emissions form of transport, particularly as environmental action and climate change were key topics to be discussed at the summit.

A press release issued by the G7 states promised that each would “increase and improve” contributions towards the aim of rich nations spending £71bn annually to help poorer countries adapt to global warming and changing climates. But specific pledges came only from Canada, which doubled its commitment to £3.1bn over the future five years, and Germany who promised to increase spending to £5.2bn a year by 2025. Following an address delivered by  Sir David Attenborough on the urgency of action, the summit group also pledged to move away from using coal plants and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. Yet, they have given neither a detailed plan for making the change nor a target date to achieve it – although they did agree to stop subsidising new coal-fuelled power generation in developing countries from next year. The failure of the G7 nations, which together produce about a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, to agree on a specific end date for the use of coal weakened their ability to act as figures of prominent change and modern activism. It may also make it more difficult to convince 200 nations to strike a bold climate agreement at the United Nations summit in Scotland later this year (COP26).

Many NGOs cried out for radical change and urgent action. The Civil Society 7 (C7) group of charities proclaimed: 

“Multiple commitments for climate action have been made and remade. Yet even after this summit, we are still short of the significant climate finance needed. ” 

Friends of the Earth organiser Jamie Peters also stated that: 

“We have seen lovely words about the importance of climate change, but unless there is thorough funding and these words properly put into action, this weekend just amounts to staged set-pieces and polished speeches. Climate breakdown has to be treated as the absolute global emergency it clearly is. That means a detailed plan for doing something from the world’s leaders.” 

The C7 was also keen to highlight the failure of the event to address flaws in vaccine policy: 

“Without 10 billion vaccines, the removal of patents and investment in healthcare systems pledges to inoculate the world by the end of next year ring hollow.”

On climate, the question was not whether G7 countries would commit to net zero emissions by 2050 – this was the bare minimum that was expected- but rather how the world’s richest countries would meet their yearly Paris Accord commitment to finance the energy transition of developing countries. Vague language referring to increasing and improving climate finance investment up to 2025 and reaffirming the developed countries’ goal to mobilise climate mitigation investment did little to pinpoint how this would be tackled or executed. These promises were not new, lacked in detail, and some were insufficient to adhere to climatic and ecological boundaries. 

As the BBC reported, the leaders of the G7 committed to a green revolution that would limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C. They also promised to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, and protect at least 30% of terrestrial land and ocean area by 2030. However, the G7 countries have failed to deliver on climate finance pledges. The majority of what has been provided so far has been in the form of loans, which are pushing vulnerable countries further into debt. The Earth needs intersectional action and global action. Investment in sustainable practices to protect further degradation and loss of biodiversity is yet to be seen from summits, meetings, events and policies like this summit.

Mia Clement is a first year undergrad studying Geography at Christ Church college. They are an ardent climate activist promoting intersectional environmental protection and information across both OCS social media and @climatemia channels