/ 9 June 2021

Pressure on rich G7 countries to show climate leadership

Uk Prime Minister Hosts Virtual Meeting Of G7 Leaders
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson hosts a virtual meeting of G7 leaders in the Cabinet Room at Number Ten, Downing Street on February 19, 2021 in London, England. The 2021 G Summit will be held in Carbis Bay, Cornwall from 11-13th June. (Photo by Geoff Pugh - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Many of the world’s wealthiest countries are under increasing pressure to pledge grant finance needed for over indebted and poorer countries to adapt, mitigate and address the current effects of climate change when the G7 group meets this week. 

The superpowers are gathering at a seaside resort in Cornwall, UK from 11 to 13 June, and will meet for the 47th time since the G7 was formed.

The G7 meetings are attended by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, and special invitations have been sent to emerging economy leaders, including President Cyril Ramaphosa. G7 finance ministers met last week, during which countries committed to financial support for less-developed countries to cope with global warming. 

“International climate finance is critical for supporting developing countries’ climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. We commit to increase and improve our climate finance contributions through to 2025, including increasing adaptation finance and finance for nature-based solutions,” stated the ministerial communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meetings. 

UN secretary general António Guterres has called for substantial climate pledges to help least-developed and developing countries tackle the climate disaster when the countries accounting for nearly half of global GDP meet. 

“Before the UN climate conference in November in Glasgow, we need concrete proposals that ease access to greater finance and technological support for the most vulnerable countries. Developed states must deliver on public climate finance, including the long-promised $100-billion for climate action in developing countries, at the G7 Summit in June,” Guterres said at the Leaders Summit on Climate in April. 

Previous climate conferences have left developing and poorer countries disgruntled about the lack of financial pledges to meet the $100-billion goal set in 2009 and the ongoing climate talks underway for a second week are seemingly no different. 

The talks are said to be stuck in the mud as negotiating teams test the muddy waters of virtual climate diplomacy. 

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa, told reporters that she was confident world leaders would meet the $100-billion-a-year goal needed to deal with the crisis. She believes that progress on finance will have to be made at the G7 meetings for this to happen. Espinosa spoke at the sessions of the subsidiary bodies, which are expected to set the groundwork for the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, later this year. 

“Reports from delegates and observers suggest they’re not going that well: the climate diplomacy agenda is stuck in the mud, and it’s proving hard to build trust and momentum in a virtual world,” a source close to the process said. Added to this are observer reports that a request from China’s delegation to have observers blocked out of certain sessions will create a bad precedent of a civil-society blackout before COP26. 

“Are we going to be heard at all, ever?” tweeted South Africa’s Tasneem Essop, head of the Climate Action International, lamenting the lack of opportunity for civil society to actually speak at the talks. “The biggest risk these negotiations face is that they continue to show that the climate regime is disconnected from the real world,” Canadian delegate Eddy Perez said in a video message. Other observers accused UN chairs of “shutting us out”. 

Although informal and non-binding, the subsidiary body sessions are seen as crucial to building trust towards the larger, in-person conference at the end of the year. 

In 2009, several wealthy countries pledged to raise $100-billion a year from 2020 to 2025 to finance action on climate change. It will only be clear if this goal was met for last year when data is released in 2022, but current predictions show that it will likely not be met. In addition, the UN has called on states to see this goal as a floor and not a ceiling. The commitment is regarded as a pillar of the Paris Agreement

Climate leaders have warned that a repeat of rich countries’ reluctance to pledge significant finance at COP25 will make the upcoming COP26 difficult. 

The COP26 Coalition has called for a global climate damage fund, to be funded by the biggest polluters. The international coalition was formed by civil-society groups and NGOs. 

“We urgently need to transform our societies and economies towards a real zero-carbon world, and do so in a way that tackles the interlinked crises of ecological destruction, racism and inequality. Global summits dominated by rich countries and corporations — whether it’s the [US President Joe] Biden summit or the G7 meetings — will not put people before profit or offer real change,” the coalition said. 

Ahead of the G7 meetings this week, the coalition said that current governmental climate pledges are nowhere near those needed to meet the Paris Agreement and mitigate catastrophic climate change, also noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing global inequalities

“Agreements made at the G7 will be critical in deciding whether we can adequately address the climate crisis, Covid pandemic and overlapping global inequalities,” the groups said. 

Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want and the spokesperson for the COP26 Coalition, believes inequalities and injustices have been hardwired into economic and political systems. 

“The leaders of the G7 countries — the richest and most powerful economies of the world, who bear the greatest responsibility for fuelling these crises — can no longer make empty statements or hollow promises to act. Leaders must listen to the millions of people in every corner of the world demanding a just transition that can deliver a just, fair and safe world where everyone has the right to live with dignity,” Rehman said. 

“As a first step, the G7 must commit to doing their fair share of emissions reductions by 2030, [from] limiting temperature increases to well below 1.5°C, to unlocking the trillions needed to build a sustainable economy of the future — one that guarantees universal public services, living wages and puts people before profit,” he said. 

According to sources close to the ongoing UN climate talks, a major tension is the lack of space on the agenda for adaptation, loss and damage, and finance issues. 

“These issues are big bugbears for many developing nations and one the UN and COP26 presidency will need to address heading out of this session,” the source said.

Civil-society groups are looking to the G7 to turn the tide on the current course of climate finance, which looks set to miss the 2009 pledge, and is already due for a post-2025 finance plan.