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G7 reflections – why we must press on

Hollow promises by G7 leave trust frayed ahead of crucial climate talks, but we must persevere in prayer

Tearfund | 16 Jun 2021

Youth climate activists at the G7 Summit in Cornwall (Sarah Wiggins/Tearfund)

Youth climate activists at the G7 Summit in Cornwall (Sarah Wiggins/Tearfund)

This blog first appeared as an opinion piece on the Premier Christianity website on 14 June 2021.

I've come away from the beautiful Carbis Bay area of Cornwall disappointed that the G7 Leaders have broken faith with communities battling the crises of Covid-19 and climate. Many of us 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 to meet the crises we face.

Some might question the legitimacy or relevance of a few world leaders gathering in a coastal corner of the UK to the daily challenges faced by communities all over the world. Tackling the crises of Covid-19, poverty and climate require a global response; however the G7 nations represent 58 percent 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 to break free of the current grip of Covid-19: Rich countries have ordered enough vaccines to immunise their population 3 times over, while 69 poorer countries only have supplies for 1 in 10 people. For that 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 whilst the G7 made the vaccine donation pledge, so much was left unanswered.

Hollow, too, were the G7 Leaders’ words on the climate crisis. This weekend was a moment to demonstrate climate leadership and build vital trust and momentum to secure success at COP26, the critical UN Climate Summit in November. COP26 in Glasgow will be the first real stock take on progress towards the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement to limit warming to the safer level of 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 commitments

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 vital infrastructure, such as wind farms and railways, could signal a shift to a green recovery, but needs to be fully financed quickly if it is to build confidence ahead of COP26.

One positive step was that the G7 has for the first time recognised the egregious impact of coal on the climate, committing to end financial support for coal power overseas by the end of this year. They also committed to accelerate the transition away from coal at home too - but with less detail on when. Recent analysis confirms what we already knew: 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-driven droughts, floods and storms, and halt devastating nature loss. To truly end the fossil fuel era, we now need the G7 to lead on phasing out support for all fossil fuels - at home and overseas.

Perhaps most disappointing though was the repetition of long overdue promises to deliver $100 billion in climate finance each year to support the countries most affected by the climate crisis - without any indication of how or when this decade-old pledge will be fulfilled. Communities like those Tearfund serves have been experiencing the devastating effects of climate change for years - these delays and inaction undermine confidence in the commitment of the G7 nations on climate.

Coming together as community

But this weekend was about much 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. It was a pleasure to work as part of the Crack the Crises coalition - 75 organisations working together on the crises of covid, poverty, climate and nature loss - and I was inspired by the energy and determination of all the local groups and climate activists I met in all their many guises. We saw activists and community groups raise the profile of the Wave of Hope campaign – without campaigns like ours, it would have just been pictures of world leaders on the beach! It’s not too late to join in – the wave will continue to roll on to the UN climate talks in November.

As Christians, and as part of a global community, we all have a role to play in shaping a better future - and the last 15 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 of God’s kingdom.

Looking ahead

So now, as we look ahead to the G20 meetings kicking off 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 moment 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.

As we look towards COP26, let’s keep working and praying together: for those impacted by the climate crisis, for leaders to prioritise justice, and for God to move powerfully. For guidance to help you pray, why not sign up to receive regular prayer updates to your phone? Simply text ‘PRAY’ to +44 (0)7916 874441 to sign up.

Ruth Valerio
Global Advocacy and Influencing Director

Tearfund

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