The G7’s jumpstart for multilateral cooperation
Author: Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit, RSIS The 47th G7 Summit was held between 11–13 June 2021 in the United Kingdom. Global problems need global solutions and the G7 is one of the most important platforms for galvanising multilateralism. The G7 convenes some of the world’s largest and most advanced economies, which cumulatively account for 40 per cent […] The post The G7’s jumpstart for multilateral cooperation first appeared on East Asia Forum.
Author: Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit, RSIS
The 47th G7 Summit was held between 11–13 June 2021 in the United Kingdom. Global problems need global solutions and the G7 is one of the most important platforms for galvanising multilateralism. The G7 convenes some of the world’s largest and most advanced economies, which cumulatively account for 40 per cent of global GDP. Outcomes of the meeting can set the direction of responses to transnational issues.
Leaders agreed to collectively donate one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines directly or indirectly via COVAX to low-income countries over the next year. G7 members also took leadership in fostering ‘a resilient, integrated and inclusive global health system prepared and equipped to prevent the causes and escalation of disease, and to detect emerging health threats quickly’.
Member states adopted the Carbis Bay Communique and the G7 Health Ministers’ Statement which include concrete commitments to actions that will ensure the development of the post-pandemic economic system. For example, nations pledged to work together to reduce the time taken to develop vaccines, detect epidemic threats and treat future outbreaks in less than 100 days.
Finance ministers were tasked to work with members of the G20 to explore ways to finance sustainable global health and health security. G7 members also requested a timely and transparent WHO-led phase two COVID-19 origins study. The bloc’s leadership signals that other countries should abandon inward-looking measures which undercut the earlier global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and embrace multilateralism to jointly defeat transnational health issues.
On climate change, G7 states — which together account for 20 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions — reaffirmed their commitments to the Paris Agreement, keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To tackle the fossil fuel issue, leaders agreed to phase out coal energy production and end new overseas investment in this sector by the end of 2021. The G7 also plans to raise US$100 billion annually to help the developing world address carbon emissions and global warming.
The grouping also endorsed the 2030 Nature Compact aimed at reversing global biodiversity loss by 2030. It promised to safeguard 30 per cent of the Earth’s lands and oceans. These commitments reflect that G7 members’ willingness to collectively work toward a greener planet. This will likely generate positive momentum for the upcoming UN COP26 in Glasgow in November.
Another outcome of the summit was the adoption of the US-led ‘Build Back Better World’ (B3W) partnership, which seeks to fund infrastructure and narrow the US$40 trillion financing gap in the developing world by 2035. B3W is values-driven and upholds transparency, inclusiveness and financial and environmental sustainability. The initiative will tap into private capital via development financing and mobilise ‘hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries’.
Leaders called out China in certain areas. For instance, the Carbis Bay Communique urges Beijing to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms for Xinjiang and Hong Kong. G7 Leaders also stressed the importance of sustaining an inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific. While not specifically mentioning China, leaders expressed the importance of a peaceful resolution to the Taiwan issue and voiced concerns about recent developments in the East and South China Seas.
Although these outcomes were steps in the right direction, there is more work to be done. For instance, the donation of one billion vaccines falls short of the 11 billion doses required to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Ending the pandemic also requires more than vaccine donations. Shipment and distribution networks must be strengthened to ensure that those in need are inoculated in a timely fashion.
Some of the pledges relating to climate change lack detail. The Carbis Bay Communique is vague about the types of technologies the G7 will embrace to reduce fossil fuel production. While the document mentions plans to move away from oil-reliant automobiles towards zero-emission vehicles in the transport sector, there are no specific timelines to achieve this goal.
Admittedly, G7 members differ in their bilateral approaches toward Beijing. Yet, the summit outcomes expressed the grouping’s united front against China. The communique mentions ‘China’ four times and connotes that the pact does not agree with China’s approaches in different areas. Unsurprisingly, this drew criticisms from Beijing. As soon as leaders called out China for human rights violations, the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom urged the G7 to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs.
Beijing sees the US-inspired B3W initiative as a response to its own Belt Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI has come under fire from several Western states for its lack of transparency, debt trap risks and overwhelming involvement of Chinese state-owned enterprises. The call for a second WHO COVID-19 origins investigation will also further deepen rifts between Beijing and G7 members, especially the United States.
Overall, the summit demonstrates that multilateralism is alive, with the G7 being a platform through which collective action can be coordinated to tackle global issues. But the bloc’s confrontational stance towards China may not only enrage Beijing but also make it more difficult for other non-G7 states to navigate a more divided international environment. How the outcomes of the meeting will be carried forward in other international forums remains to be seen.
Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit is Assistant Professor and Deputy Head of the Centre for Multilateralism Studies at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.The post The G7’s jumpstart for multilateral cooperation first appeared on East Asia Forum.