Boris Johnson’s chances of success at this autumn’s crucial COP26 global warming conference in Glasgow hang in the balance after the G7 failed to deliver significant new pledges on climate finance at their three-day summit in Cornwall, campaigners have warned.
Despite the prime minister’s promises of a new green package to match the US funding of reconstruction of post-war Europe, the gathering of leading global powers at Carbis Bay delivered “a partial plan not a Marshall plan”, said Christian Aid.
A communiqué issued by the G7 states – the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan – promised that each would “increase and improve” their contributions towards a promise made 11 years ago for rich nations to spend $100bn (£71bn) annually helping poorer countries adapt to global warming.
But specific pledges came only from Canada, which doubled its commitment to $4.4bn (£3.1bn) over the next five years, and Germany, which promised to increase spending by €2bn to €6bn (£5.2bn) a year by 2025.
After being addressed by Sir David Attenborough on the urgency of action, the group of major democracies also promised to move away from using coal plants without carbon capture technology.
But they gave neither a detailed plan for how to make the change or a target date to achieve it – though they did agree to stop subsidising new coal-fuelled power generation in developing countries from next year.
Meanwhile, former prime minster Gordon Brown branded the summit an “unforgivable moral failure” after the G7 nations pledged only 870 million of the 11 billion vaccine doses which the World Health Organisation says are needed to inoculate the world by next year, and made no new pledges on vaccine financing.
A defensive Mr Johnson denied that Brexit wars and his huge overseas aid cuts had fatally undermined the summit – his first appearance as host on the global stage, five months ahead of the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow.
At a closing press conference, he insisted that “great commitments” had been made to try to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, and said the target to vaccinate the world by the end of next year will be done “very largely thanks to the efforts of the countries who have come here today”.
A Build Back Better fund would give access to finance for developing countries to develop infrastructure in a clean and sustainable way, as an alternative to financing from China’s Belt and Road Initiative, he said.
And he said he “rejected outright” the suggestion that his £4bn-a-year cut in UK international aid spending had undermined his moral authority to secure commitments from other countries.
Asked about a diplomatic spat with France over the UK’s failure to implement the Northern Ireland protocol, Mr Johnson insisted it had not deflected from the agenda he had set out.
The “vast, vast majority of conversations” had been about “other subjects”, he insisted, claiming: “There has been a fantastic degree of harmony between the leaders of our countries.”
But Max Lawson, from Oxfam, said: “This G7 Summit will live on in infamy. 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.
“The G7 have chosen to cook the books on vaccines and continue to cook the planet. We don’t need to wait for history to judge this summit a colossal failure, it is plain for all to see.”
And the Civil Society 7 (C7) group of charities said: “Without 10 billion vaccines, the removal of patents and investment in healthcare systems pledges to inoculate the world by the end of next year ring hollow.
“Multiple commitments for climate action have been made and remade. Yet even after this summit, we are still short of the significant climate finance needed.”
Friends of the Earth spokesperson Jamie Peters said: “We have seen lovely words about the importance of climate change, but unless there is thorough funding and these words properly put into action, this weekend just amounts to staged set-pieces and polished speeches. Climate breakdown has to be treated as the absolute global emergency it clearly is. That means a detailed plan for doing something from the world’s leaders.”
Christian Aid director of policy Patrick Watt said that the meagre progress at Carbis Bay boded ill for Glasgow, where the UN is hoping for a decisive step forward from the commitments made in Paris in 2015 to keep global heating within 2 degrees celsius.
“The US committed 6.5 per cent of its post-war GDP to the Marshall Plan,” said Mr Watt. “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.”
Mr Johnson said there had been “big pledges around the table” on climate finance, with the UK itself giving £11.6bn, adding: “I do think that we can get there.”
And he argued: “The world was looking to us to reject some of the selfishness and nationalist approaches that have marred the initial global response to the pandemic, and to channel all our diplomatic, economic and scientific might into defeating Covid for good.
“And I do hope we have lived up to some of the most optimistic of hopes and predictions.”
But Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “This was the most important G7 for a generation. But instead of agreeing concrete plans to tackle the biggest global challenges, Boris Johnson’s strained relationship with fellow world leaders has taken centre stage and derailed this crucial summit.
“By every measure, the prime minister’s summit has come up short. No clear plan to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022. No ambitious commitments to place the path on the path to climate safety.
“With less than six months until COP26, the government must raise the ambition and work constructively with countries across the world to deliver for people in Britain and around the world.”
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