This is what I would say to the world’s most powerful leaders at the G7 summit

We can’t stand in front of the world imploring other countries to step up in the climate crisis fight, when many of our policies at home are taking us in the opposite direction

Thandiwe Newton
Wednesday 09 June 2021 12:46
<p>Boris Johnson speaks during the opening session of the virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate from Downing Street in April</p>

Boris Johnson speaks during the opening session of the virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate from Downing Street in April

Many of us have thought about it – what would it be like to be a fly on the wall when some of the most powerful people in the world meet? Just what goes on during those heated discussions?

Perhaps you’ve even daydreamed one step further and considered what you’d say if you had an hour in that room to speak your mind. It might be hard to know where to begin with the world facing so many challenges. But as seven of the world’s most influential powers descend on my home county Cornwall for the G7 summit they have a real chance to get to grips with these crises. If I had time with them I know one thing wouldn’t be far from my lips – the climate crisis and its effect on nature.

So where would I begin? I’d reserve a big chunk of my time for a quiet word with our prime minister, the host of these talks, Boris Johnson. We’d need to get clear that the G7 alongside November’s global climate summit in Glasgow are the most important events this country will ever host.

The need to limit global heating only gets stronger by the day yet action remains too slow, too insignificant, or is going in the wrong direction entirely. Across the world, particularly in the global south, its impacts are already being felt. There’s a lot riding on this, so the UK has got to take bold action and lead by example if we want to make these summits work.

I can imagine the response – more warm words about how the government gets the problem, how it’s committed to climate leadership. The reality is for all the claims to climate leadership and commitment to world-leading targets, many of our government’s own policies and actions are taking us in the opposite direction.

We can’t stand in front of the world imploring other countries to step up while here in the UK we slash funding for measures to cut carbon emissions from homes or keep the door open to granting new licences for oil and gas. Equally, we can’t legitimately lead the way in ending the fossil fuel age while parts of our own financial sector continue to fund activities that emit more carbon annually than Germany, as Greenpeace and WWF recently revealed.

These are hypocrisies that don’t go unnoticed when demanding action from others. So before turning my attention to the rest of the leaders, I’d send Boris Johnson off with one final message; if the government wants to be a climate leader it’s time to start acting like it. Push like never before for international climate action but bring that same energy to our efforts at home.

As I talk the clock’s ticking, my time in that room is nearly up. So what would I conclude to those other leaders sitting there around the table? There are many problems facing our world, so many of them are interlinked. But as the world faces the heat of these crises, they have the chance to take action that makes a difference.

Be bold, I’d say, do what’s necessary. Make good on – and exceed – your decade-old $100 bn (£70 bn)-a-year global climate finance promise, so the hardest hit by the climate crisis cope with its impacts and plan for a zero carbon future. I’d tell them to remember the effects of the climate crisis are unequal and unfair.

The crisis was created by the privileged few, but is hitting marginalised communities the hardest. I’d implore them to place these communities at the heart of the conversation and to look at the work that organisations like Union of Justice are doing.

With my last few minutes, I’d tell them to back bold measures that support our natural world, like strong protection for at least 30 per cent of the Earth’s land and sea, respecting the rights of communities whose livelihoods depend on it. They must commit to sparking a green recovery from coronavirus for all nations across the world, one that sees a clear thread between the need for equal access to Covid vaccines and access to green tech like renewables.

Leaders at the G7 have the means to crack these crises, they just need the will. And while the chances of me slipping into the G7 to make the case are close to zero, I add my voice to the many around the world calling on them to seize the moment and act now. There’s a healthier, fairer, greener world on offer, it’s time these leaders helped us create it.

Thandiwe Newton is a British actor who has starred in ‘Westworld’, ‘Crash’ and ‘Mission: Impossible II’. She is an ambassador for Greenpeace

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