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The G7 Cornwall Summit's Strong Success
John Kirton, G7 Research Group
June 13, 2021, 13h30 EST
The G7 Cornwall Summit on June 11–13, 2021, produced a strong success, with high performance on many components of the most critical subjects it had to – and did – confront. Here COVID-19 and climate change stood out above all else.
On controlling COVID-19 and its successor pandemics, the Cornwall Summit created a strong start to the much greater global effort still needed soon to control the current disease and the similar ones sure to come.
A few days before the summit, host and chair British prime minister Boris Johnson publicly proclaimed that he wanted his summit to agree to vaccinate everyone everywhere on the planet by the end of next year. To do this, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said 11 billion doses needed to be delivered into people's arms, including those of the poorest people in the poorest countries in the world. G7 leaders agreed, in their draft communiqué, to start doing so, by donating at least one billion doses within the next year. The day before the summit's formal start, G7 members started pledging their share to hit this goal. On arrival in Cornwall, US president Joe Biden announced that the US would donate 500 million vaccine doses within a year to the poor countries that most needed them, and would send the first 80 million within three weeks. Johnson then promised the UK would produce another 100 million. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau added 100 million, twice as many as the one tenth of the US total that Canada is traditionally expected to give. This 700 million total put the full G7 on track to meet or exceed the one billion target, once Japan, German, France, Italy and the European Union added their recent and new pledges to the "ABC" triumvirate ones.
This G7 summit down payment could be built on when the leaders of democratic Australia and Korea joined their G7 colleagues at Cornwall on the summit's final day. More pledges could arrive in the coming months, culminating at the G20 summit in October, when Russia and China could add massive amounts of the effective vaccines they have invented, produced and started to share on their own. The G7 did not, as no one realistically expected or demanded, solve all the problem, all at once, all by themselves in one weekend. But they fully met the urgent task of credibly committing to donate enough does to meet the targets and timetables Dr. Tedros set, should their other major partners in the bigger, broader G20 now start to do their full fair share.
To prevent the damage caused by future COVID-19–like pandemics, on the summit's second day, G7 leaders agreed on a "Carbis Bay Declaration," promising to prevent viruses from again passing from animals-to-humans to cause death and destruction to the degree that COVID-19 has. The British government announced that G7 leaders would take three key steps. They would 1. develop the capacity to create and license vaccines, treatments and diagnostics within 100 days to prevent human infections from any new animal-to-human disease; 2. create a Global Pandemic Radar to reinforce global surveillance networks and a genome sequencing capability to detect and identify such viruses at the earliest possible stage; and 3. support the reform and strengthening of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The credibility of this ambitious plan was reinforced in several ways. It fulfilled the British presidency's priorities announced in the five-point plan Boris Johnson presented to the United Nations last September. Implementation got off to a fast start with the UK's creation of a new centre in England, financed by £10 million from the British government and another £14.5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A reformed and reinforced WHO was an integral part of the plan. The announcement recognized that its members had just produced in record time – in the UK, US and Germany – the first fully safe, effective, transparently tested and thus trusted vaccines against COVID-19. They had also done so with massive financial and other support from the start from the governments of the UK and US, using the superb scientific expertise from the world's best universities located there. And G7 members contain two thirds of the pharmaceutical market in the world.
On the most immediate, visible, deadly challenge, requiring an immediate response, G7 leaders thus produced a very strong performance. It was far stronger in fostering human health than any G7 summit before, and than the G20's Global Health Summit in Rome a few weeks before. The Cornwall Summit's COVID-19 contributions were enough to create a pathway to meet the global need in the coming year or two.
The second strong success came on climate change and its core components of biodiversity and nature, where G7 leaders made more comprehensive, ambitious, specific and credible commitments than any G7 summit before.
On the evening of June 12, the British presidency provided an overview of what they would produce the next day on their most important challenge – stopping the climate and biodiversity crises. It contained a long, comprehensive list, specifying more extensive and ambitious action than G7 leaders have promised at, and produced after, any G7 summit in the past. It promised:
These advances were highly promising in many ways. They started with assisting the economic foundation in developing countries, where most of the sources of carbon pollution would soon arise and where most of the natural carbon sinks already lived. They put nature next, in priority place for the first time, showing they would finally fulfil the promise made at the G7 Houston Summit in 1990 to solve the climate crisis using "all sources and sinks." They directly addressed the critical source of coal, and promised to end it at home and its financing abroad as soon as possible. Canada, the G7 pioneer in phasing out thermal coal at home, had announced on June 11 that no new or expanded coal mines would likely be approved within Canada ever again.
These key promises were converted into specific commitments in the Carbis Bay Communiqué released at the summit's end. The most important and innovative commitments were as follows:
All these specific commitments rendered credible the initial overall promise: "We commit to accelerating efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep the 1.5°C global warming threshold within reach, strengthening adaptation and resilience to protect people from the impacts of climate change, halting and reversing biodiversity loss, mobilising finance and innovation to reach these goals." That promised flowed from the explicit recognition in the first sentence of the section on "Climate and Environment" that "the unprecedented and interdependent crises of climate change and biodiversity loss pose and existential threat to people, prosperity, security and nature."
To restore commerce in a freer, fairer way fit for the digital economy of today, Cornwall produced a strong performance too.
Its centrepiece was agreement on a revolutionary international tax regime that would have the richest companies finally paid their fair share of taxes, and do so to the governments of the countries they made their massive money and profits in.
To create the confidence markets and consumers needed to sustain and reinforce the jobs-rich economic recovery recently starting within the G7, its leader promised to maintain their massive fiscal and monetary policy stimulus for as long as it took. To calm those appropriately concerned about the need to contain the inflationary pressures already starting to surge in some G7 members, they added that they would keep a close watch and act before serious, sustained damaged was done. They also promised to shape a recovery that was fairer for women and other people long left behind, and that was good for the natural environment, too.
To ensure that this inclusive equality embraced poor people in poor countries, it came just at the time that the G7 was starting to win the war against COVID-19 that had driven so many emerging and developing countries back toward poverty again. It was critical for building the clean, green digital economy all the world needed now. In the G7's competition with China, it would encourage the latter's Belt and Road Initiative, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and more broadly the BRICS New Development Bank to be bigger and better than they had been thus far, in ways favourable to the developing country recipients and the entire global community in many ways. It would launch the global competition for a cleaner, greener, fairer, more affordable and sustainable infrastructure with many more richer participants in this race to the top.
If all goes well in its aftermath, the G7's Cornwall Summit could go down in history as the vaccination summit, and the summit that helped save nature and all the lives that depend on it.
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