G7: More Empty Promises?

2nd July 2021

Erin LynchErin Lynch

Earlier last month, world leaders gathered in Carbis Bay, Cornwall for the widely anticipated G7 Summit. As the seven largest IMF advanced economies, the G7 nations account for close to 60% of global net wealth. As such, the promises they make and/or miss have wide-reaching consequences. This is truer than ever as the coronavirus pandemic and climate crisis continue to wreak havoc on the world. The summit generated headlines for some of the leaders’ hypocritical antics, but did anything really happen?

Well, bold proclamations were certainly issued. In a series of joint communiques, the G7 committed to halving their collective emissions over the next two decades, and reaffirmed their commitment to the 1.5°C global warming threshold set out in the Paris Agreement. The group also committed to conserving or protecting at least 30 percent of land and oceans by 2030, investing in technological advancements, and finally meeting their overdue spending pledge (originally set in 2009) to give developing countries $100bn a year. It is hoped that this aid will enable poorer countries to cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming. Some also hope that the G7’s commitment to phasing out coal (or at least coal plants without carbon capture technology) will put pressure on China to follow suit, and that the commitments made will spur developing nations to cooperate with climate goals during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this November. All of this seems a little hypocritical when it was revealed just last week that Ministers in the UK are set to approve a new oil and gas project in the North Sea basin, where 3.5 percent of the UK’s yearly greenhouse gases are produced.

As Blue Marine Foundation put it ‘impressive promises and ambitious targets have been made many times before’ - ‘just last year, the Leaders Pledge for Nature, a string of important commitments led by the UK and signed by most of the current leaders of the G7, explicitly said they would end unsustainable use of the oceans – yet just a few weeks later we saw several of the signatories pushing for continued overfishing.’ Max Lawson from Oxfam came in with even greater force saying ‘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.’

Researchers based at Kingston University London and the University of Oxford have found that climate laws implemented by the G7 group in the past have achieved success in cutting collective carbon dioxide emissions. But while they have ‘bent the curve of emissions’, the impact of policies set by the G7 group have been thus far ‘critically insufficient’. They found, on average, that each law reduced the carbon intensity of GDP by 0.8% in the first three years, and 1.8% over a longer period of time. In short, ‘climate laws can work’. But are these laws enough?

Patrick Watt, Director of Policy at Christian Aid said ‘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.’

If Watt is right, citizens and organisations need to put more pressure on our Governments to act with even more urgency. But while civic action is essential, so too are contributions of all the rest of us. This week’s Good Tythings showcases the vital contributions made by investors, scientists, academics, charity workers, documentary film-makers, and ordinary people alike. If we want to develop real solutions to the climate crisis, we have to leverage our resources, however slight, to reimagine the world together.

Good Tythings

  1. Researchers at the University of Oxford have showcased how the effective use of newly-available climate-science evidence in the courts could help overcome obstacles to legal success and help foster even more successful litigation on climate-change impacts.
  2. Excellent Development was recognised at 2021 Charity Awards where their work was described as ‘unsexy, literally down-to-earth, grassroots stuff’, ‘the bread and butter of really good development programmes. The work Excellent Development does is cost-effective, impactful, locally-driven and replicable. Most importantly, it’s making a huge difference to marginalised communities for whom desertification and climate change are urgent problems today.
  3. It was a good month for alternative protein startups with investors continuing to inject huge sums into the industry. Glasgow-based startup ENOUGH raised £30 million in their Series B funding round for their fungi-based alternative meat. ENOUGH believe that if they grow one million tons of mycoprotein by 2032, they would reduce the same amount of CO2 as planting 30 million trees. Meanwhile, the FDA approved use of Nature’s Fynd whose products are based on a fungus found in remote areas of Yellowstone National Park. Finally, two ‘cell-based’ startups Wild Type Foods (cell-cultivated fish) and Future Meat 1 (which operates an industrial scale cultured meat plant) began operating their pilot projects this week.
  4. The UK Government has partnered with major brands to give foods on our shelves an ecological rebrand. The new traffic light system, which will launch as a pilot run in the Autumn, will give a range of food and drink items an ‘eco-score’ on their packaging, helping customers assess their carbon footprint and sustainability. It’s hoped the move will ‘shake up supply chains’ and empower people to make more informed buying choices.
  5. Greenpeace has launched legal action against the government after research revealed that the UK’s deep-sea mining permits are ‘riddled with inaccuracies’, and could be unlawful.
  6. New Zealand has pledged to ban most single-use plastics by 2025. At present, New Zealanders are one of the top 10 per-capita producers of landfill waste in the world, throwing away an estimated 159g of plastic waste per person every day.

Things to Do

  1. Mark your calendars for July 14th at 7pm. Rivercide is a live documentary hosted by George Monbiot on the dismal state of British rivers. It will be free to watch at riverside.tv

  2. Want to know how you can eat in a more climate friendly way? Clare Finney, alongside the Sustainable Food Trust, wrote a guide to some of the world’s most sustainable foods. This includes grass-fed beef, oats, and seaweed.

  3. The Great Big Green Week is happening from September 18 - 26 in communities across the UK. The idea behind the week is for communities to come together and take action against climate change. This includes putting pressure on politicians to raise their ambitions in anticipation of COP26 this November. You can sign up to hear about events that are happening in your local area, or propose your own, using their templates and guides.

And last, but not least, take a moment to remind yourself why taking individual action is so powerful.