G7 leaders pledge to deliver 1 billion vaccine doses globally
Group of Seven leaders promised to deliver at least 1 billion extra doses of vaccines over the next year in the most dramatic element of the bloc’s effort to help bring an end to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
In the final communique, obtained first by Bloomberg News, the G-7 worked to revitalize cooperation between some of the world’s most powerful economies, after a period during Donald Trump’s administration in the U.S. when such documents were often done away with.
The summit featured a robust debate behind closed doors over how direct the language related to China should be, especially a push to set up a task force to flesh out proposals for an infrastructure program to rival Beijing’s flagship project. That back-and-forth saw the U.S. coming in strongly, with the document containing the toughest set of words that were on the table. The final document cited China explicitly on human rights issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, but did not mention Beijing in a section on forced labor practices.
The leaders agreed to language condemning Russia for “destabilizing behavior” and called on Moscow to pursue hackers carrying out ransomware attacks from its soil. That comes ahead of President Joe Biden’s meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia in Geneva on Wednesday.
These communiques routinely get diluted and this time was no different, as the G-7 omitted a proposal contained in an earlier draft that called for a transition to half new petrol and diesel car sales by 2030.
With many goals already achieved, the summit fell short on two aims: raising more new money for vaccines and climate action.
Here is our more detailed analysis.
Leaders have set themselves the goal of ending the pandemic next year, which they say will require vaccinating at least 60% of the global population. This target is a revision of an earlier version of the communique seen by Bloomberg, which had indicated jabbing 80% of adults as the target to reach.
A flagship commitment the U.K. trumpeted on the first day of the summit to provide an additional one billion vaccine doses to the world’s poorest countries has also been recast to include exports and doses that have been previously provided, including to the Covax scheme.
Collectively since the start of the pandemic, the G-7 nations will have provided for over 2 billion doses, the communique says. That overall figure includes 700 million doses that have been exported or will be this year. On top of these, the G-7 is committing to directly share at least 870 million doses.
The G-7 also called “for a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 COVID-19 Origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China.”
Here, there was less dilution in spite of much haggling, with the communique “calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.”
An official involved with the talks during the summit said there was agreement on a three-thronged approach to Beijing: cooperate on issues such as climate change, compete on trade and supply chains and disagree on human rights.
The document also raises concerns “about the situation in the East and South China Seas” where the G-7 opposes “any unilateral attempts to change the status quo and increase tensions.”
However, a section about the use of forced labor in global supply chains, including state-sponsored forced labor, doesn’t directly name China. That’s even as some countries accuse it of exploiting its Uyghur Muslim minority in the western province of Xinjiang, a claim Beijing disputes.
The leaders also confirmed plans to launch a green rival to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to help support infrastructure projects and green transitions in developing countries.
The Russia section of the communique was done and dusted before the summit even started, according to documents seen by Bloomberg. No debate there on the communique, though Moscow was a key topic in foreign policy discussions.
It says: “We reiterate our interest in stable and predictable relations with Russia, and will continue to engage where there are areas of mutual interest. We reaffirm our call on Russia to stop its destabilizing behavior and malign activities, including its interference in other countries’ democratic systems, and to fulfill its international human rights obligations and commitments.”
The group also reaffirmed support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and condemned the recent forced landing by Belarus of a commercial jet in Minsk and the subsequent arrest of an independent journalist. “We will work together to hold those responsible to account, including through imposing sanctions, and to continue to support civil society, independent media and human rights in Belarus,” the document says.
The last day of the summit was dedicated mostly to discussions about climate change, a key priority of the U.K. presidency, also because it’s hosting this year’s United Nations COP26 conference.
While the group committed to decarbonizing their respective transport sectors and “to accelerate the transition away from new sales of diesel and petrol cars to promote the uptake of zero emission vehicles,” the final version of the communique, unlike a previous draft, does not include a date for that target.
While the G-7 committed to ending international funding for carbon-intensive fossil fuel energy as soon as possible and speeding up the exit from coal as they “overwhelmingly decarbonise” their domestic electricity sectors in the 2030s, they weren’t able to agree on a firmer date due to resistance from one group member.
The area where the summit probably falls shortest is on climate finance objectives. The leaders renewed a pledge to provide $100 billion a year to the world’s poorest nations to back their energy transitions and each committed to increase their contributions, but it makes little mention of exactly how much new funding each will put in.
“We welcome the commitments already made by some of the G-7 to increase climate finance and look forward to new commitments from others well ahead of COP26 in Glasgow,” the communique says.
Elsewhere, the G-7 rubber stamped the recent finance ministers agreement on tax. That agreement is seen as an important stepping stone toward a broader deal at the G-20 and the OECD.
Finally, the leaders reiterated their support for the holding of the Tokyo Olympics.
–With assistance from Kitty Donaldson, Arne Delfs, Ania Nussbaum, Kait Bolongaro, Jennifer Jacobs and Tim Ross.
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