Climate change at the G7 Summit: Everything you need to know

World leaders are meeting in Cornwall this week (11-13 June) as part of the G7 Summit. The climate crisis is a key theme for policymakers going into the event, but how much prominence will it have as the world's largest economies attempt to respond to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic?

Climate change at the G7 Summit: Everything you need to know

The UK Government has confirmed that the Summit will take place between 11-13 June in Carbis Bay

World leaders, protestors, thinktanks and businesses alike are gearing up for the G7 Summit this week. Here, edie looks at who is involved with the key event, what will be discussed, and why Cornwall was chosen to host these prestigious discussions.

What is the G7 Summit?

The G7 consists of the world’s seven largest economies. The organisation was set up in 1973, meeting for the inaugural event two years later, with members consisting of the UK, the US, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Japan. G7 Summits now act as an annual event where these economies can discuss the world’s most serious societal and environmental challenges.

The annual meeting is taking place in the UK this year, after the nation took up presidency of the organisation for 2021. Political leaders from each member nation will gather at the event.

The latest G7 Summit will see UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meet with US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and French President Emmanuel Macron.

A selection of non-member representatives has also been invited. These include the European Council’s president Charles Michel, the European Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It will be the first face-to-face meeting of the G7 since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to attend, but virtually due to the ongoing issues involving the pandemic in India.

While this annual summit cannot officially pass any laws, it can create agreements around tackling key megatrends. In 2002, for example, the G7 helped create a global fund to tackle an array of diseases, including Malaria.

Where is the Summit being hosted?

The UK Government has confirmed that the Summit will take place between 11-13 June in Carbis Bay, Cornwall.

The location is predominantly a tourist attraction, but the UK Government is keen to show off the region’s green credentials. Cornwall is notably aiming to become the first net-zero region in the UK.

Alongside the region’s natural attractions – consisting of more than 700km of coastline and 27% of Cornwall is already designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – it is also home to flagship sustainability initiatives such as the Eden Project and the UK’s first geothermal recovery plant that will extract lithium for use in the electric vehicle (EV) sector.

The Government is keen to turn the region into an eco-hub and has today (9 June) announced new leveling-up funding to support this vision. Town Deals have announced for Penzance, St Ives and Camborne, worth a combined £65m, which will be used to support projects in some of Cornwall’s most deprived areas.

While it is an area of natural beauty, biodiversity in Cornwall is on the decline. Over a 30-year period, the populations of breeding birds and land mammals have declined by 50%.

The Government is therefore partnering with Natural England and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust to launch restoration and regeneration programmes across 21,000 hectares of land. The Government claims that reforestation and the restoration of wetlands will take an estimated 440,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Additionally, up to £1m has been made available for Cornish businesses to support the development of energy efficiency projects, power generation and energy storage. The region will also act as a pilot area for a new e-bike support scheme.

Ahead of the Summit, the UK Government has confirmed that it will comply with the British Standards Institution’s (BSI) – the national standards body of the UK – ISO 20121 certification for event sustainability.

As such, the Summit is set to be carbon neutral, with local produce in catering, recycled materials, sustainable energy sources, and cleaner fuels all used to help run the event. The summit will be plastic-free where possible.

The Government has appointed Arup and Crowberry Consulting to help achieve ISO 20121 certification and deliver a carbon-neutral event. Additionally, the Government is funding four carbon offsetting projects in developing countries, including an improved cookstoves project in Uganda, a composting facility in Vietnam, and biogas reuse in Thailand.

Will climate change be discussed?

Yes. Climate change looks set to be one of the focus points of the Summit, alongside efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to legislate a new target to reduce national emissions by 78% by 2035, including emissions from international shipping and aviation, following the Climate Change Committee’s advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget.

It is believed that the UK will press other nations to set raised climate targets as part of the build-up to COP26, which takes place in Glasgow in November this year.

As reported in the Guardian, British high commissioner, Vicki Treadell, has implored nations to align interim emissions targets, not just those set for 2050, with the 1.5C target of the Paris Agreement.

According to Treadell, carbon border tariffs could be discussed at the G7 Summit, with countries eager to avoid “importing carbon emissions”.

With a report warning that G7 nations could lose 8.5% of their economies each year by 2050 as a result of the climate crisis, efforts to mobilise climate funding will likely be discussed.

Prior to the Summit, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak met with finance ministers, with discussions leading to a historic agreement that G7 nations will mandate climate reporting in line with the recommendations of the global Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

However, discussions over mobilising $100bn in annual funding to help low-income nations combat the climate crisis remain less concrete.

An Oxfam report reiterates that G7 governments are failing to deliver on the longstanding $100bn pledge. Oxfam estimates the G7’s current commitments would deliver $36bn by 2025, of which less than $10bn would be for projects and initiatives on climate adaptation.

Currently, only the UK and US have agreed to increase funding from current levels. France is aiming to maintain current levels of climate finance, while Canada, Germany, Japan and Italy are yet to confirm spending plans.

The Summit will likely focus on progress towards this pledge while also examining the role of debt relief for existing loans and the roles of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and public and private investment banks in allocating funding to climate and adaptation initiatives across the globe.

Reports have emerged that the UK will introduce a “clean green initiative” at the Summit. The Times reported that the Foreign Office, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the Treasury are working together on this initiative, which would funnel funding into low-carbon infrastructure as part of the $100bn contribution.

The leaders of the G7 nations have already agreed on a joint commitment to ensure their power sectors reach net-zero in the 2030s, setting up for the economy-wide transition by 2050.

What do green groups want from the Summit?

The build-up to the Summit has been marred by an array of protests from campaigners. At the time of writing, around 80 activists are taking part in a six-day climate march from Plymouth to west Cornwall. Led by the environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion (XR), the group wants the climate crisis to be the top priority at the Summit.

Indeed, XR expects around 1,000 activists and protestors to make the journey to St Ives, the town next to Carbis Bay, for the Summit. Other protestors have dressed as Boris Johnson to burn a small boat, signifying a reliance on the fossil fuel industry. MusicMagpie has also commissioned a sculpture of the heads of the G7 leaders out of e-waste as part of a “Mount Recyclemore” statue, to highlight that more than 53 million tonnes of e-waste were generated worldwide in 2019.

Additionally, some of the world’s biggest trade bodies are urging world leaders, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to ensure that the G7 Summit prioritises the international response to the climate and nature crises.

The call to action was made in the form of a communique from the B7 group, which comprises trade bodies including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), BusinessEurope and the Chambers of Commerce for the US and Canada.

While the communique states that it is right for one of the Summit’s focuses to be the ongoing response to the public health and economic crises caused by Covid-19, outlining priorities for the vaccine rollout and for removing restrictions from international trade and travel, it warns that other “great challenges of the age” must not fall down the agenda.

On climate, the communique urges G7 members to build on long-term net-zero targets with “detailed policy plans and incentives to support industry, workers and communities impacted by the transition”. Indeed, the UK is facing mounting pressure to publish its net-zero roadmap before COP26 as promised.

The communique also states that the G7 should “prioritise national policies to support the development of markets that value biodiversity, natural environments and natural carbon sinks, and nature-positive business activity”. This recommendation comes ahead of the 15th biodiversity COP, where the UN will encourage nations to adopt a ‘Paris Style’ deal for nature.

What happens after the Summit?

Once the summit ends, the host nation – in this case the UK – will publish an official “communique” document, outlining what has been agreed by world leaders. The Prime Minister is also expected to hold a news conference on the final day (Sunday 13 June).

Following that, the UK will continue to encourage other nations to raise climate ambitions in the build-up to COP26.

Currently, the world is massively off-track to realise the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. While the UN received 48 updated national emission reduction goals during 2020, it has concluded that these will only put the world on course to produce 1% fewer greenhouse gases in 2030 than it did in 2010.

In comparison, the reduction will need to be 25% to meet the Paris Agreement’s 2C trajectory and 45% to achieve alignment with 1.5C.

The UK will continue to use the presidency roles of both the G7 and COP26 to get other nations to submit updated climate plans, with decarbonisation and climate finance set to be key themes in the build-up to the COP26 summit in November.

Events such as London Climate Action Week, the UN General Assembly and the pre-COP event all take place following the G7 Summit and prior to COP26. The UK will be keen to use these platforms to get nations and businesses to make fresh commitments to climate action.

Additionally, the Government is expected to release a host of policy frameworks prior to COP26, including those related to hydrogen, the built environment and a roadmap to net-zero.

Countdown to COP26 Festival

If you enjoyed this piece and would like to continue the conversation as the G7 progresses and preparations for COP26 continue,  edie will be hosting a six-month Festival in the run-up to November. 

Supported by headline partner O2, the Countdown to COP26 Festival will be built around the five official themes of the COP26 talks: Clean Energy, Climate-based Finance, Clean Transport, Nature-Based Solutions, and Adaptation & Resilience. 

Click here for a full agenda of events and exclusive content. 

Matt Mace

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