Group of Seven (G7) leaders on June 12 confronted the threat of future pandemics as the elite club of wealthy nations advertised a newfound Western unity at its first physical summit since 2019.
After an informal evening get-together – featuring a Royal Air Force aerobatics display, beach barbecue, firepit marshmallows and a Cornish troupe singing sea shanties – the leaders were to wrap up their three-day summit on June 13.
At their concluding session in Cornwall, southwest England, US President Joe Biden and his colleagues will back new conservation and emission targets to curb climate change, according to the UK hosts.
In a “Nature Compact”, slated for a June 13 release with the G7’s final communique, they will commit to nearly halving their carbon emissions by 2030 – relative to 2010 – as well as vowing to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
The leaders are also set to promise more financial support for developing countries on the sharp edge of climate change, in the buildup to the UN’s COP26 environmental summit in Scotland in November.
Such actions were unthinkable under former president Donald Trump, but Biden is touting a message of revived US leadership on his first foreign tour.
“We’re on the same page,” Biden told reporters as he met French President Emmanuel Macron on the summit sidelines, pushing to rally the West against a recalcitrant Russia.
Asked if other G7 leaders agreed with him about a US diplomatic renaissance, Biden pointed to Macron, who replied: “Definitely.”
Promising to “collectively catalyse” hundreds of billions of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries, the G7 leaders said they would offer a “values-driven, high-standard and transparent” partnership.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the “Build Back Better World” (B3W) project an “important initiative” that was much needed in infrastructure-poor Africa.
Britain meanwhile hailed G7 agreement on the “Carbis Bay Declaration” – a series of commitments to curb future pandemics after Covid-19 wrecked economies and claimed millions of lives around the world.
The collective steps include slashing the time taken to develop and licence vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for any future disease to under 100 days, while reinforcing global surveillance networks.
The G7 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US – was due to formally publish the pact on June 13, alongside the summit communique containing further details on the B3W.
“The #CarbisBayDeclaration marks a proud and historic moment for us all,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter.
World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the health pact.
The G7 leaders are also expected to pledge to donate one billion vaccine doses to poor countries this year and next – although campaigners say the rollout is much too slow to end the crisis now.
After briefing the leaders in Cornwall, Tedros said he had set them the challenge of vaccinating at least 70 per cent of the world’s population by their next summit in Germany next year.
“We welcome the generous announcement made by G7 nations about donations of vaccines but we need more and we need them faster,” he told reporters. “Immediate donations are vital.”
Aid charity Oxfam said the declaration “does nothing to address the fundamental problems that are preventing vaccines being accessible to the vast majority of humanity”.
The G7 was joined on June 12 by the leaders of Australia, South Africa and South Korea, with India taking part remotely, for a wide-ranging discussion about foreign policy challenges.
The regimes of Belarus and Myanmar are among those in the G7’s sights.
The US president will also seek to address frayed relations with Moscow, in particular over its cyber activity.
Most of the G7 leaders will reconvene on June 14 in Brussels for a NATO meeting, before Biden heads on to his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, vowing to deliver a blunt message about Russian behaviour.
In an interview with US network NBC News released on June 11, Putin voiced hope that Biden would exhibit none of the “impulse-based movements” of Trump, who notoriously sided with the Russian leader against the views of his own intelligence chiefs.