Beth Kayser

G7 Leaders Summit 2021: what to expect

6 min Read
Narrow street with flag bunting zig zagging across it

The G7 Leaders Summit 2021. Not circled in green on your wall calendar? Understandable. However, as environmental news goes, we’re on tenterhooks at Pawprint HQ. So, here’s all the info to get you up to date.

What is the G7 Leaders Summit?

The G7 group includes seven countries with “the most influential and open societies and most advanced economies”. More specifically, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US (plus the EU). They meet annually to discuss global issues - such as international security, trade, climate change, global health, gender equality and poverty - and to use their prowess and privilege on the political stage to spark international action.

When and where is it?

11 - 13 June, Cornwall, United Kingdom.

What are the G7’s greatest achievements?

The group regards itself as "a community of values", with freedom and human rights, democracy and the rule of law, prosperity and sustainable development as its key principles. It claims to have taken action to strengthen the global economy, combat tax evasion, support the education of millions of children in developing countries, as well as playing a crucial role in setting up the Global Fund, which fights AIDS and malaria and has saved 38 million lives since 2002. It also helped to secure the 2015 Paris Agreement, to limit global emissions and (ideally) halt global warming at 1.5° by 2050. 

And what are its criticisms? 

Some see the G7 as a hand-shaking, photo opportunity, which results in a vapid communiqué and no decisive follow-through. The G7 has certainly not delivered on specific agendas, such as the Syrian crisis, Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, and the development of the world’s poorest countries. Its actions to reverse climate change have also been under scrutiny, with G7 leaders reprimanded for favouring net-profit over net-zero.

This meeting of relatively homogenous members has also been criticised for not reflecting the current state of global politics or economics. In principle, it exemplifies the capitalist model, where the richest make decisions for the poorest. In the past, there have been no participants from Africa, Latin America or the southern hemisphere, which ostracises emerging economies like India and Brazil and refutes diverse global representation. This poses a problem in climate terms, as the most vulnerable populations in the Global South are directly experiencing the impact of climate change, caused mostly by the industrial ferocity of the Global North. Lack of relevant representation means lack of real time climate concerns being voiced and blind spots when it comes to solutions. For example, did you know that biodiversity is declining less rapidly on lands managed by indigenous peoples? These voices deserve a seat at the table. 

So, what’s on the agenda at the G7 Leaders Summit 2021?

Meeting on home turf in Cornwall, the PM has invited representatives from India, Australia, South Korea, South Africa to participate alongside the G7 nations. The main topic on the menu is how to build back better *insert flexing bicep emoji*. In his words, they will be “uniting to make a future fairer, greener and more prosperous.” Priority discussion points are as follows:

  • Leading the global recovery from coronavirus while strengthening our resilience against future pandemics;
  • Promoting our future prosperity by championing free and fair trade;
  • Tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity;
  • Championing our shared values;

Why are we excited about it? 

This is the first of major climate discussions to happen in the UK this year, with COP26 being hosted in Glasgow in November. Dominic Raab recently expressed desire for “ambitious action on climate change” at the G7 Summit and although there are concerns about the G7 Climate and Environment Ministers’ Meeting Communique not conveying enough clear and urgent progress, three weeks before the summit doors open the G7 countries have already pledged to end investment into coal-fired power stations. We’re hoping the combination of these summits, hosted on home turf, will leverage successful outcomes, activate international change and pave the way to a low-carbon future. Cross all your fingers and toes people.

Remember, our aim is to stop temperatures rising above 1.5°. Our current temperature is at 1.2° and we are warming 0.2° per decade. This. Is. Urgent.

Pawprint’s key climate asks

The G7 Leaders Summit 2021 has the chance to lay the groundwork for a successful COP26. The pandemic has shown that leaders can urgently respond to emergencies, and widespread behavioural change can happen overnight. We ask that the climate crisis be regarded with the same immediacy and our worldwide leaders prioritise the reversal of climate change in economic policy as their countries recover from Covid-19. Address one crisis by addressing another. In exact terms, this would include:

At Pawprint, we believe in the power of collective change and we approach G7 ever-positive of its potential. So, I leave this article with a final note from the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa

“Like COVID-19, trying to address the global climate change emergency through economic nationalism or isolationism is like covering one corner of a wildfire with a wet blanket. We are not safe unless the entire fire is extinguished.”

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