G7 Leaders Summit and the Cherry on Top: Will 2021 Make History?

Posted on 10 June 2021

Leaders of the world’s seven richest economies meet together for the first time in two years, in Cornwall, under the auspices of the UK government which holds the Presidency this year. There are high expectations from the world for key decisions to be taken, writes WWF’s Fernanda de Carvalho, Global Policy Manager for Climate & Energy.
This year's G7 agenda has been much more challenging than in previous ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. The richest countries of the world are not only expected to deliver on traditional issues under discussion for years but also on global immunization and a green recovery, not only for themselves, but for the rest of the world. Also, the UK holds both the COP26 and G7 Presidencies, so strong commitments to reverse climate change and put the world on a path to net-zero emissions and a 1.5˚C future are also core deliverables.

The good news is that we can see some encouraging signals coming along on the way to the Leaders Summit. The Climate & Environment Ministers' Communiqué highlighted the need to tackle the twin and interdependent crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, recognized the crucial role of nature-based solutions; and adopted '1.5˚C within reach' as and 'net-zero' as benchmarks. A key positive development is the call for stopping international investments in unabated coal by the end of 2021. The language on phasing out fossil fuels and subsidies is a step forward, but there are caveats or loopholes (see our analysis here).

Both the Climate & Environment Ministers and the Finance Ministers and Central Bankers groups reaffirm the goal to mobilize US$100 billion annually for developing countries through to 2025, but do not present further details. The Finance Ministers and Central Bankers Communiqué advances on supporting mandatory climate-related financial disclosures that are based on the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework and by welcoming the establishment of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) and its recommendations. However, Finance Ministers and Central Bankers missed the chance to address fossil fuel subsidies.

This weekend, G7 Leaders have the opportunity to make 2021 a historical year for the bloc. It's time for clear finance announcements, translated into amounts committed, rather than reaffirming a goal adopted in 2009 that hasn't yet been fulfilled. This will be a key element to unlock ambition, to be translated into stronger short and long-term climate plans to be presented at COP26.

We also expect to see the Leaders agreeing on phasing out all fossil fuels, not only coal but also oil and gas and related subsidies, with timelines and strong language in the communiqué. The recently launched IEA report, that lays out a net roadmap for the global energy sector, states clearly that “there is no need for investments in new fossil fuel supply beyond 2021”. A group of 100 economists has urged the G7 to take advantage of the tremendous investment opportunities in clean energy and promote a just and equitable transition away from all fossil fuels, as they inject historic levels of public money into the economy in response to COVID-19.

We couldn't agree more. If the G7 leaders take concrete steps on support and phasing out of fossil fuels, that will be fantastic.

But the cherry on the top, the story we want to tell our children and grandchildren, is about vaccine equity. We want to tell them that, in the midst of a terrible disease, the richest countries of the world came together to support poorer ones in getting their people immunized. Cooperation on vaccines will be the biggest short-term contribution of the G7 to move the world past COVID-19 and back to working full force towards a nature-positive, net-zero future with a safe, resilient and open global economic system that leaves no one behind.

"Pick the planet", said Alok Sharma, incoming COP26 president, in his speech to mark six months to the COP. That also entails picking its people.

Here are WWF's priorities for the G7:

We welcome the UK Presidency of the G7 and its aim to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe however, that to build forward better is necessary, to put the world on a path to a more sustainable and equitable future, for the health, wellbeing and prosperity of all people. The COVID-19 pandemic is both a wake-up call and an opportunity to urgently transform our broken relationship with our natural environment.

To tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, and prevent future global pandemics, we must put ourselves on a path towards a just, nature positive and carbon-neutral world. WWF has a number of recommendations relating to each of the priorities for G7 set by the UK Presidency:

1. Leading the global recovery from coronavirus while strengthening our resilience against future pandemics. WWF urges the G7 to:
  • Prioritize prevention of future pandemics through addressing high risk wildlife trade, the risks associated with intensive livestock production and conversion of forests leading to deforestation;
  • Commit to creating a Global Commission for Economy and Nature, acknowledging that economic prosperity is dependent on a healthy and diverse planet Tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity.
2. Tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity. The interconnected crises of climate change and biodiversity loss must be addressed in tandem. We urge G7 to:
  • Consolidate a just transition from fossil fuels;
  • Commit to creating a G7 Net-Zero Financial System Taskforce;
  • Unlock public climate and biodiversity finance;
  • Prioritize the role of nature for climate ambition;
  • Secure a transformational global biodiversity framework at CBD COP 15;
  • Secure an ambitious, legally binding instrument on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea;
  • Advocate for a new legally binding international agreement on plastic pollution; 
  • Advocate for a global moratorium on deep seabed mining, and commit to investing in a circular minerals economy;
  • Redesign food production systems and supply chains.
Cornwall, UK, where leaders of the seven biggest economies will meet for the first time in two years. The meeting will run from 11 - 13 June, 2021.
© John Englart on Flickr
The G7 Leaders Summit will be held in the UK this year.
© G7 website