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The 2021 G7 Summit and the Global Climate Crisis

As those of you following global politics at the moment will know, this weekend marks the beginning of the 2021 G7 Summit. The annual summit is being held this year between the 11th and 13th of June and with the UK taking its turn for the presidency, it has been decided that the event will take place in Cornwall. 

With a particularly turbulent few years in global politics having played out since the last summit; including but most definitely not limited to the Covid-19 pandemic, wildfires in Australia, the US, and the Amazon, long-overdue social movements, economic hardship, and unstable political relations, it is expected that the G7 nations will have a lot to discuss this year. 

A common tagline of the summit this year is the phrase ‘Build back better’, in reference to many of the pressing issues facing the global environment. On the agenda are areas including Covid recovery, climate change, and political relations. 

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But What is the G7?

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Formed in 1998 the G7 is an organisation of influential, wealthy countries that meet annually to discuss world issues and how best to combat them. Currently, there are seven member countries in the G7, with the number fluctuating between 6 and 8 over the years with some nations joining or leaving. The current G7 countries are France, the USA, the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, and Japan, together these countries represent over half of global net worth and all rank within the top 10 countries with the largest GDP per capita. This year Australia, India, South Korea, and South Africa have also been invited to participate in the summit. 

Though the G7 can’t create and pass laws, it does have a global reach and a global impact and in the past has been instrumental in combatting issues such as Malaria and the AIDS crisis. 

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The Climate Crisis and the 2021 Summit

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While the G7 is not strictly an organisation or summit to discuss climate change, the global, complex, and potentially devastating impacts of climate change and global warming have made it a hot topic at recent G7 meetings. With the climate crisis expected to reach a critical point in a fast-approaching future, the importance of nations gathering, particularly those with a strong international influence, to come up with climate strategies is of particular importance. 

In this year’s summit, the issue of climate change has been outlined to particularly focus on areas of climate resilience and adaptation, including the implementation of early warning systems, drought-resistant crop cultivation and financially supporting more vulnerable countries. As well as this, the discussion is set to focus on investments in climate resilience and funding of decarbonisation technologies. 

In late May, the Climate and Environmental Ministers of the participating countries met to discuss and demonstrate a united front on becoming Net-Zero by 2050, and highlight some of the environmental programs they already have in operation. 

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So, will the G7 Save Us?

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This is where it gets a little trickier. Big, powerful countries coming together to tackle big, complex problems is a key part of forming solutions and strategies to combat climate change and  the policies and commitments that should be made at the G7 summit could go a long way in solving the problem. 

Whether these commitments will be made and will be stuck to is another issue that we won’t be able to know  the answer to until the summit has taken place, but in the documents that have been released so far the intentions are positive. While concrete numbers and specific strategies have been a little sparse, commitments regarding biodiversity loss and climate change have been made that could potentially make a powerful difference.

The tagline of Build back better is a concept, though, that doesn’t exactly sit comfortably. It sounds great, but when broken down, it doesn’t mean a lot and again doesn’t provide any sort of concrete goals to work towards. Although there has been mention of decarbonisation, investment, and education, much of the climate focus at this year’s event seems to be surrounding climate adaptation and climate resilience. Both of these concepts  are vital parts of climate change strategy and are worthy additions to the summit. These focus on adapting our actions and our technologies to cope with the effects of climate change, both those already occurring and those likely to occur in the future. 

This scope feels a little limiting, as it takes the focus away from combatting the underlying causes of climate change. With countries with such global influence participating in the summit, focusing on how we can help the climate to heal, lower our impact, and rethink our climate policies could create a real and measured impact on climate solutions. 

While strategies to survive a changing climate are important, putting the main focus on these rather than on strategies to reverse and solve the underlying climate issues does feel a little like plugging the leak instead of fixing the dam. 

What this year’s G7 Summit does do is reintroduce and refocus the issue of climate change to both the global political and general populations. Events like the summit including climate change in any capacity opens the door for honest, open communication and education for both the world powers that are attending the summit and for anybody engaging with it at any level, whether this is simply hearing a news report about it or being involved in the event.  With the Covid-19 pandemic largely overshadowing the fight against climate change over the past year, putting issues surrounding climate change and global warming back in the spotlight is vital. 

At the end of the event, a communique will be released to highlight the main points discussed and conclusions reached at this year’s G7 Summit. With a world battling multiple crises, this year’s Summit is sure to be a complex one. However, any event that facilitates communication and collaboration between nations and aims to find positive solutions for the problems facing our world, problems very much including the climate crisis, are steps towards a more peaceful, safer, and more sustainable future. 

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Author: Emma Tidswell

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