Group of Seven (G7) leaders on June 13 vowed to start delivering one billion doses of Covid vaccines and to step up action on climate change, in a US-led summit call to arms.
In a final communique issued at their first physical summit in nearly two years, the leaders of the elite club largely hewed to US President Joe Biden’s push to regain the West’s cohesion after Donald Trump’s tumultuous tenure.
“We will harness the power of democracy, freedom, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights to answer the biggest questions and overcome the greatest challenges,” Biden and his colleagues from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan said.
At a G7 news conference before he headed on to a NATO summit and talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden said his fellow leaders agreed “America is back at the table and fully engaged”, adding that NATO’s mutual defence was a “sacred obligation” for the US.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, host of the summit in southwest England, had described Biden as a “big breath of fresh air” and told reporters on June 13 that the G7 stood united anew in its “democratic values”.
But the pledge on vaccines for poorer nations fell far short of the 11 billion doses that campaigners say are needed to end a pandemic that has claimed nearly four million lives and wrecked economies around the globe.
Likewise, the G7’s pledges to deliver more aid for countries at the sharp end of climate change, and to phase out fossil fuel investments, were decried as too little, too late ahead of a UN summit in November.
“This G7 summit will live on in infamy,” said Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at aid group Oxfam. “Faced with the biggest health emergency in a century and a climate catastrophe that is destroying our planet, they have completely failed to meet the challenges of our times.”
India and South Africa, who took part in the G7 talks as guests, had pressed for the gathering to waive intellectual property rights on Western vaccines. But Britain and Germany were notable holdouts.
Campaigners also complained the G7 had failed to flesh out how it will pay for a newly agreed “Nature Compact” – aimed to protect 30 per cent of the world’s land and oceans from despoliation by 2030.