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G7 leaders say they’re addressing climate change. Activists say it isn’t enough

June 15, 2021, 10:38 PM UTC

President Joe Biden met with the leader’s of the world’s wealthiest nations this week in Great Britain to discuss growing perils of climate change, but while the leaders all agreed that the crisis was eminent and that decisive action must be taken, the nations simply reaffirmed pledges that had been made in previous years and did little new to address it, said critics. 

This marks Biden’s first G7 meeting as president and his first trip abroad during a presidency that began under travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. There, leaders of the Group of Seven agreed that they must work to stem mass extinction, severe weather, and rising water lines caused by climate change. They also said that they would aim to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030, but did not come to an agreement on when to end the burning of coal— thought to be a major contributor to greenhouse gasses. 

Leaders also agreed to raise their spending to meet an earlier, uncompleted goal of pledging $100 billion a year to help less wealthy countries stem their own carbon emissions and deal with the damage already wrought by climate change.

Still, climate activists say the promises made by these countries— the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan— were not nearly enough. 

“The G7’s reaffirmation of the previous $100 billion a year target doesn’t come close to addressing the urgency and scale of the crisis,” said Teresa Anderson, of Action Aid, in a statement. New action needed to be taken to contain the growing threat climate change presents to the world’s economy and the quality of life for all nations, she explained. 

Other activists pointed out that there was no mention of how much these seven nations had contributed to the current climate crisis, and no discussion of accounting for it. 

“What I think the world was looking to for the G7 was a really bold commitment that they will lead by example from the front and that they will generate extraordinary amounts of resources to help other countries who didn’t cause the problem come along as well,” Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and former special representative to the U.N. secretary-general on sustainable energy, told PBS Newshour.  

Climate and weather disasters cost the U.S. $1.875 trillion between 1980 and 2000, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If left unchecked, some economists predict it could cost the U.S. up to 10.5% of its GDP by 2100.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, pushed away criticism, saying that the meeting was very productive on many fronts and had to be looked at for the forest, not the trees. “I think it has been a highly productive few days,” he said.

Much of the meeting was framed around countering the growing influence and threat China presents to the G7 nations. The leaders, said Biden, had convened to present a “democratic alternative” to what he called an “autocratic lack of values” by endorsing a global minimum tax to help promote equity among countries and also to fund infrastructure projects in developing nations that would make them more competitive with in China’s manufacturing industry. 

China has also pledged to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2060, engaging in a race with the G7 nations. 

The countries also addressed the Covid-19 pandemic and inequities that were leading some nations to suffer while others moved forward with vaccinations. They pledged to donate 1 billion vaccine doses to poorer countries over the next year while bolstering early pandemic warning systems and quick vaccine production in the future. 

The leaders ended their four-day meeting by publishing a 25-page communique which outlined their agreements and agenda. 

They were prepared, they said, to lead the world in a “green revolution” through their emission cutting pledges and by pledging to conserve or protect at least 30% of land and oceans by 2030. 

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