If you follow any of the G7 leaders on social media, chances are you’ve been inundated by wholesome images of the attendees enjoying themselves at the Cornish resort of Carbis Bay while discussing their shared agenda for global action over the weekend.
Public gatherings aside, it was the substance and commitments – or lack thereof – resulting from the behind-the-scenes meetings that have made the headlines about the summit.
One of the group’s collective pledges is to end the pandemic and prepare for the future by donating at least one billion extra Covid-19 vaccines to developing countries over the next year. However, the World Health Organisation has estimated that it would take 11 billion doses to end the pandemic, which suggests G7 leaders could be doing a lot more.
Another big promise included in the G7 communiqué is a “values-driven, high-standard and transparent” partnership to support lower- and middle-income countries in building better infrastructure. Through their proposed spending plan – the financial details of which are unknown – the group is seeking to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has helped finance trains, roads, and ports in many countries using so-called “debt diplomacy”.
While there isn’t consensus yet among G7 leaders over whether to treat Beijing as a partner, a competitor, or a security threat, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London sent a clear message back to the group on Sunday: “The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone.”
But if there’s one item on the agenda that has drawn much disappointment is the group’s plans on climate action. Included were commitments to reach “net zero no later than 2050”, keeping the projected global temperature rise to 1.5C, and raising $100bn a year to help developing countries cut emissions, but with little detail on how that figure would be raised.
Finally, there was the elephant in the room: the Northern Ireland Protocol. Despite the “fantastic degree of harmonies between the leaders”, as Boris Johnson put it, the UK prime minister and French president Emmanuel Macron staged a war of words over the protocol. Rather than facilitating a solution, if anything, the G7 summit seems to have aggravated the situation.
Given that Johnson will next meet with EU leaders during COP26 in November, time is short to flesh out the detail of these and further commitments.