The 2020s are already marred by three interrelated crises: Covid-19, climate change and the collapse of nature. G7 leaders have the opportunity and responsibility to drive a global response that brings all countries along on a healthy, green recovery.
To do that, G7 leaders need to agree to step up to their fair share of the battle against this triple threat, by first and foremost sharing vaccines and funding a global rollout, ramp up financial aid for climate action, relieve poor countries of insurmountable debt so that they can begin to recover and provide them with greater access to finance and technology.
Leaders from the UK, Canada, US, Germany, France, Japan and Italy meet in Cornwall on 11-13 June, along with guests South Korea, Australia, India and South Africa. For the UK presidency, Cornwall offers an opportunity to raise the bar on solidarity and climate ambition and restore trust from developing countries ahead of the United Nations COP26 climate summit it hosts in November.
Here’s a look at four ways the G7 can reset the Covid-19 recovery and climate action to make it a fair, equitable, global effort.
Stop hoarding, start sharing vaccines
More than 80 percent of vaccines administered so far have been in higher- and upper-middle-income countries, whereas only 0.3 percent have gone to low-income countries, the New York Times reported. Some 16 percent of the global population has access to half of all vaccines.
But a global recovery from Covid-19 requires global vaccination. Failure to share vaccines will allow the pandemic to last longer and create space for new variants. Less wealthy countries are relying on COVAX, an initiative to provide an initial 2 billion vaccine doses worldwide by the end of 2021.
G7 countries can make sure this happens by quickly closing the initiative’s US$20 billion funding gap, and setting out a plan to complete universal vaccination by the end of 2022. To accelerate the global recovery, they should also deliver 2 billion vaccines ahead of the COP26, including half by the end of August.
Action is cheaper than in action. Research in February found that the global economy will lose around $4 trillion if developed countries reach full vaccination by mid-2021 while only half of people in developing countries are jabbed.
Cough up the green cash
This year sees two momentous global summits for climate action – the Convention on Biodiversity COP15, hosted by China in October, and the COP26 in Glasgow a month later.
Neither will reach substantive agreement without a significant show of financial support through the 2020s from rich to poor countries, for emissions reductions as well as adaptation to the climate impacts that many are already suffering. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for all climate finance to be split evenly between mitigation and adaptation.
That requires the G7 and other wealthy economies to set a clear example of the transformation by ending subsidies for fossil fuels and shifting their financial and policy support to clean energy and infrastructure.
But it also calls on the G7 to step up support for poorer countries, starting with fulfilling the developed side’s commitment to mobilise US$100 billion per year in public and private finance for developing countries by 2020. Next, the G7 should commit to doubling climate finance and raising the proportion of grants over loans. Here is what each G7 country can do to meet its fair share of financing global climate action:
Double your post-2020 climate finance pledge from CAD$2.65bn (over 5yrs) to CAD$5.2bn
Increase its climate finance to €8 billion per year by 2025, with half dedicated to adaptation and a substantial increase in grant-based support.
Double its climate finance to €8 billion per year by 2025, half of which goes to adaptation.
Commit to delivering the last €1 billion of its €4 billion-per-year by 2020 pledge and double that sum to €8 billion per year by 2025. Italy can also double its contribution to the Green Climate Fund to €600 million and renew its €30 million contribution to the UN’s Adaptation Fund every year until 2025.
Double its pledge to contribute US$3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, dedicate half of climate finance to adaptation and stop counting fossil fuel finance as climate money. It can also set out a finance pledge for the 2020s, specifying how much is public and private.
The G7 and COP26 presidency has already set a high bar with its 2019 pledge to double climate finance to at least £11.6 billion between 2021 and 2026, split evenly between adaptation and mitigation, but the country could commit to restoring its overseas development aid to 0.7 percent of its GDP.
United States of America
Deliver its outstanding US$2 billion to the Green Climate Fund, double its contribution to US$6 billion and raise its 2024 climate finance pledge to at least US$10 billion, from the US$5.7 billion announced in April. The US could also offer first contributions to the Adaptation Fund and to the Least Developed Countries Fund.
Developing countries have for years been fighting off catastrophes fuelled by climate change – such as droughts, floods, tropical storms and extreme heat. The simultaneous loss of nature and biodiversity exacerbates the impacts, by exposing people to higher sea levels, diseases and other dangers and threatening food supplies and livelihoods.
And all of this creates more poverty, inequality, hunger and poor health, making it harder and harder to recover from shocks. At the same time, many of these countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are shouldering the burden of unsustainable debts owed to wealthy countries that are less exposed to the impacts of climate change and better equipped to handle them.
As these countries continue to battle waves of Covid-19 and wait for vaccinations, it’s time for the developed world – led by the G7 – to lift the debt burden.
The International Monetary Fund took an important step in April, deciding to allocate US$65o billion of its own currency, Special Drawing Rights, to helping low-income countries cope with the pandemic. That money needs to be distributed swiftly, and G7 countries can add to it by re-allocating their Special Drawing Rights to countries in need. In addition, G7 leaders should back the G20 Common Framework for Debt Treatments, to compel all creditors to take part, and replenish multilateral development banks so they can increase their lending for recovery.
Recover together – or not at all
The economic impacts of Covid-19, and the Ever Given container ship’s grounding this year, have made clear the interdependence of the global economic system – and its fragility. When one country suffers, its impacts will ricochet around the world.
The health and economic recovery must therefore be global. That’s why it is as crucial for the UK, for instance, to vaccinate its population as it is to quell Covid-19 waves in India, Nepal and elsewhere. The duty extends beyond the emergency response of oxygen supplies and vaccines to long-term investments in healthy systems, local vaccine manufacturing capabilities and expertise.
The same goes for the climate crisis and nature loss. Many of the technological solutions to reducing emissions are known and available – from solar and wind energy to electric public transport to green hydrogen – but need to be significantly scaled up. Research shows that protecting and regenerating nature can create more jobs, livelihoods and health benefits than destruction, but the work needs to be put in motion.
G7 leaders can lead the way by shoring up financial, medical and clean technology resources and sharing intellectual property and expertise. If they start now.