REACTIONS to the G7 summit, which drew to a close on Sunday, have been mixed. Christian organisations were highly critical of the outcome, considering the promises made by the Prime Minister to tackle the pandemic and climate change.
The meeting, held in Cornwall this weekend, concluded with a promise to deliver a billion vaccines by the end of the year, either by donating surplus doses, or through extra funding to the UN COVAX scheme, which distributes vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
The Archbishop of Canterbury tweeted on Sunday: “Building a fairer world — that truly reflects Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbour — is possible. This shows it can be done. There’s much more to do to ensure everyone is safe from Covid-19, but we must welcome this important step towards vaccine equity.”
Gareth Iwan JonesThe Bishop of St Germans, in Truro diocese, the Rt Revd Hugh Nelson, takes part in a vigil in Falmouth connected with the G7 summit
The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has been campaigning on the issue for months, said, however, that the G7 summit would be remembered as an “unforgivable moral failure” when “every three months Covid-19 is destroying one million lives.” He wrote in The Guardian: “Long after this weekend summit is over and the handshakes, photocalls and communiqués fade from memory, it will be remembered only for failing to honour Boris Johnson’s pre-summit promise to vaccinate the entire world.”
He continued: “To vaccinate only their most vulnerable 10%, Africa needs 225m doses now. African cases rose by 25% last week, but Britain was able to offer only 5m shots by the end of September, 2% of the required doses, and, with most of the US vaccines arriving later, millions of health workers will remain unprotected even as they risk their lives to save lives.”
There was also no progress made on a patent-waiver that would have accelerated production in developing countries.
On climate change, the G7 meeting was viewed as a crucial stepping stone towards the COP26 climate summit taking place in Glasgow in November, and a chance for rich nations to deliver on their commitment to providing $100 billion of climate funding to poorer nations by 2020: a promise made in 2009, but as yet unfulfilled. The money is used by developing countries to pay for the costs of adapting to climate change caused largely by richer polluting nations, and also to help them to transition to renewables.
Meeting their responsibilities on this climate funding is viewed as essential if COP26 is to be a success and climate change is to be tackled effectively; but the expected announcement of new funding was not forthcoming, and no early timetable was offered to eradicate emissions from coal-burning.
Tearfund’s director of advocacy and influencing, Dr Ruth Valerio, said: “This weekend has been full of hollow words, with little more than spare change on the table to end support for fossil fuels and bring about the green revolution we desperately need.
“The G7 has finally recognised the egregious impact of coal, but has fallen short of ending the era of polluting fossil fuels and ushering in a climate-safe future for us all. Empty promises will do nothing for the 132 million people who will be pushed into extreme poverty this decade by the climate emergency.”
Tom Carpenter for Crack the CrisesBlimps of President Joe Biden and Boris Johnson were floated off the Cornish coast on Friday as hundreds of demonstrators target the G7 summit to demand action on the climate, poverty, and Covid-19
Although the Prime Minister spoke positively about the G7 as delivering a “green Marshall Plan” that would tackle climate change in the same way as the 1948 Marshall Plan helped to rebuild war-torn Europe, the final communiqué lacked the new funding commitments expected. The final wording said only: “We welcome the commitments already made by some of the G7 to increase climate finance and look forward to new commitments from others well ahead of COP26.”
Christian Aid’s director of policy, public affairs, and campaigns, Patrick Watt, said: “This is a partial plan, not a Marshall Plan. The US committed 6.5 per cent of its post-war GDP to the Marshall Plan. The UK, in contrast, has reneged on an aid promise one tenth as ambitious. The G7 needed to progress comprehensive debt relief, deliver on climate finance promises, and act to end vaccine apartheid.
“The G7 leadership has failed to make real progress in any of these areas. The success of the COP26 climate summit now hangs in the balance. There is still time for rich nations to deliver a solidarity package that tackles these interconnected crises. Without it, the COP will fail.”
To highlight the importance of COP26, a group of young Christians set off on a walking “relay” from Cornwall to the COP26 host city of Glasgow, on Sunday (News, 4 June). The walk, for which people will sign up to take part in different sections of the nearly 1000-mile route, is a joint initiative between the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) and Christian Aid.
The YCCN relay co-lead, Rachel Mander, said: “We stand in solidarity with people and places that are being plunged into debt and poverty because of climate change. More carbon emissions means more disease, more food insecurity, and more poverty. We will be in our thirties when the world reaches 1.5 degrees’ warming. We will not let the UK Government host summits on our doorstep only to hear more talk and no action.”
Young Christian Climate NetworkA service is held on Sunday in Truro Cathedral, where a relay from Cornwall to Glasgow began (News, 4 June)
The walkers set off after a young pilgrims’ service was held at Truro Cathedral, led by the Bishop of St Germans, the Rt Revd Hugh Nelson. The walkers will carry a specially made boat as a reminder that, “although everyone in the world is facing the same climate storm, we are not all in the same boat when it comes to resources to face those challenges” (News, 4 June).
The boat will display messages from people around the world who are affected by the varied impact of climate change. To view the route and sign up to join a section, visit www.yccn.uk.
On Sunday, President Joe Biden of the United States made an unexpected appearance at the morning service at Sacred Heart and St. la’s Catholic Church in St Ives. The President, a Roman Catholic, reportedly spoke with some of the congregation, who later told ITV that they had seen him make a “substantial” donation to the collection.
Joe Ware is Senior Climate Journalist at Christian Aid.