G7 leaders are meeting for their first in-person talks in nearly two years, with a planned pledge to donate one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.
The club of major economies – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and US – says a common approach is the world’s best chance to recover from the global health crisis and fight change climate.
As the summit opened on Friday at the seaside resort of Carbis Bay in Cornwall, southwest England, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told leaders the rally was an opportunity to learn lessons from the coronavirus pandemic and make sure they don’t repeat any mistakes.
“We need to make sure that we now allow our economies to recover,” he said, adding that a fairer future for the world was essential.
“We have to make sure that when we recover we level up and build back better. We have a huge opportunity to do this as a G7, ”he added.
But on the vaccine donation plan, campaigners said the pledge – which includes 500 million doses from the US and 100 million from the UK – does not go far enough.
“If the best G7 leaders can handle is to donate a billion doses of vaccine, then this summit will have been a failure,” said Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy officer, insisting that the world instead needs 11 billion doses as she called for a worldwide waiver of the patent protections for vaccines.
“Charity is not going to solve the colossal vaccine supply crisis,” she said. “The G7 should break pharmaceutical monopolies and insist that vaccine science and know-how be shared with qualified manufacturers around the world.
“Presidents Biden and Macron have backed an intellectual property waiver behind COVID vaccines – other G7 countries should follow their lead. The lives of millions of people in developing countries should never depend on the goodwill of rich nations and profit-hungry pharmaceutical companies. “
Alex Harris, director of government relations at Wellcome, a London-based science and health charitable foundation, said: “The new commitments from the United States and the United Kingdom are a step in the right direction, but they do not. do not go far enough, fast enough.
“What the world needs are vaccines now, not later this year. At this historic moment, the G7 must show the political leadership our crisis demands … We urge the G7 leaders to step up their ambition.
President Joe Biden sets the tone, abandoning Donald Trump’s isolationist stance on world affairs, to send a message of resolve from the G7 and NATO against Beijing and Moscow as he heads to his first meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Geneva.
“The main objective of this G7 summit is to show that democracy can meet the greatest challenges we face in the world,” said a senior official in the US administration.
G7 leaders are also expected to offer more aid to developing countries to develop their infrastructure, as a counterpoint to China’s debt-fueled spending in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The initiative “will adopt a high standards, transparent, climate-friendly and uncorrupted mechanism” for infrastructure investments in the developing world, the US official said.
“It will be an alternative to what other countries, including China, are offering.”
Supporting the U.S.-led diplomatic revival, Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday adopted a new “Atlantic Charter”, modeled after the pact signed by their World War II predecessors to help build a new world order.
Johnson dislikes the decades-old expression “special relationship”, arguing that it makes Britain subservient to Washington, telling the BBC it should instead be seen as “indestructible.”
He also played down differences with Biden over Northern Ireland, ahead of talks between the PM and EU leaders on Saturday to tackle the deep cracks opened by Brexit.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab hit back on Friday after French President Emmanuel Macron launched an offensive against the UK’s retreat on special post-Brexit arrangements for the troubled province.
Raab told Sky News that “change must come from the side of the European Commission” and that “we are not negotiating or haggling the integrity of the UK”.
Late Thursday, more than 3,000 pro-British loyalists staged a protest in Belfast against the “protocol” which effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the customs union and the EU’s single market.
Marshmallows by the sea
Johnson hopes to lighten the mood at a beach barbecue on Saturday, joined by his wife Carrie and other G7 spouses, with a group of sailors singing and roasting marshmallows around fire pits.
This will follow a reception for G7 leaders on Friday night hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Cornwall’s Eden Project, an exhibit that showcases the world’s ecological riches.
Safeguarding global biodiversity is another theme for the G7 this weekend, with leaders set on a deal to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and oceans by 2030.
They will also discuss helping the poorest countries to move away from fossil fuels, ahead of the UN COP26 summit in November in Scotland.