Tearfund’s Ruth Valerio says the G7 leaders have failed to deliver financial support for less wealthy nations
I’ve come away from the beautiful Carbis Bay, Cornwall, disappointed that the G7 Leaders have broken faith with communities battling the crises of Covid-19 and climate. Thousands of Christians have been praying for these talks - the first in-person meeting of world leaders for 15 months. While there were some positive steps, the promised agenda to tackle the pandemic and climate emergency fell short of delivering the scale of action needed.
Some might question the relevance of a few world leaders gathering in a coastal corner of the UK. Tackling Covid-19, poverty and climate require a global response; however the G7 nations represent 58 per cent of net global wealth, two-thirds of the world’s pharmaceutical market and a quarter of the world’s CO2 emissions. This was a moment for the G7 to prove its worth and show strong leadership, multilateral action and financial support for less wealthy nations. In this, they have failed.
Recipes, rights and technology
The G7 leaders announced their donation of one billion vaccine doses over 2021 and their desire to end this pandemic in 2022. But their actions fall far short of what low-income countries need. Rich countries have ordered enough vaccines to immunise their population three times over while 69 poorer countries only have supplies for 1 in 10 people. They need the recipes, rights and technology to make their own vaccines and secure the health of their populations, which at current rates, will wait 57 years to be fully vaccinated.
Globally, we have already lost 3,700,000 people to this virus. At a vigil on the evening of the first day of the summit, I took a moment to pause, pray and remember them. It was a time to call on our leaders to act urgently, and while the G7 made the vaccine donation pledge, so much was left unanswered.
We can only face global crises when people come together
Hollow, too, were the G7 leaders’ words on climate. This weekend was a moment to demonstrate leadership and build vital trust and momentum to secure success at COP26, the UN Climate Summit taking place in Glasgow this November. COP26 will be the first real stock take on progress towards the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit warming to 1.5C. Instead, G7 leaders repeated many unmet promises but delivered little in the way of action commensurate with the crisis we face.
No concrete committments
Our Prime Minister said he wanted to drive a global green industrial revolution, but the G7 leaders made no concrete commitments on how to deliver a green recovery for all.
Analysis published by Tearfund found that since the beginning of the pandemic, G7 nations have committed more money on fossil fuel intensive sectors than clean energy - jeopardising their net zero climate commitments and leaving a 1.5C future hanging in the balance. This weekend was an opportunity to course-correct; one they did not take.
The newly announced ‘Build Back Better World’ initiative to help low and middle-income countries build infrastructure such as wind farms and railways could signal a shift to a green recovery, but needs to be fully financed.
My prayer remains steadfast: that we care for the whole creation
The G7 has, however, recognised the impact of coal on the climate, committing to end financial support for coal power overseas by the end of this year and committing to acceleratng the transition away from coal at home too - but with less detail on when. Recent analysis confirms that there is no room for any new fossil fuels if we are to limit warming to 1.5C and secure a safer future for the communities most vulnerable to the climate change. To end the fossil fuel era, we need the G7 to lead on phasing out support for all fossil fuels now.
Perhaps most disappointing was the repetition of long overdue promises to deliver $100bn in climate finance annually to support the countries most affected by the devastating droughts, floods, storms and nature loss caused by the climate crisis - without any indication of how or when this decade-old pledge will be fulfilled. This inaction undermines confidence in the commitment of the G7 nations on climate.
Coming together as community
But this weekend was about more than the conversations between global leaders. Their words and actions may have been lacking, but those of the activists I met at Carbis Bay were not. Working as part of the Crack the Crises coalition - 75 organisations working together on the crises of covid, poverty, climate and nature loss - I was inspired by the energy and determination of all I met.
As Christians, part of a global community, we all have a role to play in shaping a better future - and the last fifteen months have shown us that we can only face global crises when people come together. I was reminded at the weekend that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed: smaller than any other seed, yet when fully grown, the largest of plants. Each prayer and action towards a fairer world is like a mustard seed in God’s kingdom.
So now, as we look ahead to the G20 meetings this summer and further global summits in the autumn, my prayer remains steadfast: that we care for the whole creation and that our leaders will recognise - and take - the once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver a fair and green recovery from Covid-19, get on track for 1.5C and rebuild faith and trust with the most vulnerable communities around the world.