What happened at the G7?

G7 leaders at Carbis Bay in Cornwall.
G7 leaders at Carbis Bay in Cornwall.

The pandemic, the environment and China were all on the agenda, but Brexit tensions loomed large

Published

The G7 summit in Cornwall has concluded with the world leaders making major pledges on issues including the pandemic and the environment. However, Boris Johnson clashed with French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangement.

Here are some of the things that stood out from the talks between the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy:

The pandemic

Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the pandemic with his G7 counterparts.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the pandemic with his G7 counterparts.

Leaders of the G7 have pledged a billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines – either directly or through financial donations – over the next year, with the UK promising 100 million surplus jabs.

But the World Health Organisation has said 11 billion doses need to be administered to halt the pandemic.

Edwin Ikhuoria, of the anti-poverty campaign One, said: “Throughout the summit we have heard strong words from the leaders but without the new investment to make their ambitions a reality.

“Crucially, the failure to get life-saving vaccines to the whole planet as fast as possible, means this was not the historic moment that people around the world were hoping for and leaves us little closer to ending the pandemic.”

Brexit

It was not on the summit agenda but the simmering row between the EU and Mr Johnson over Northern Ireland’s trading rules threatened to boil over in Carbis Bay.

Boris Johnson with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, ahead of a bilateral meeting during the G7.
Boris Johnson with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, ahead of a bilateral meeting during the G7.

The Prime Minister held meetings with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel in the margins of the summit as a “sausage war” dispute loomed with an effective ban on chilled meat shipments across the Irish Sea from Great Britain due to apply from July 1.

In an apparent reference to a difficult conversation with Mr Macron, the Prime Minister said some in the EU “seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country and a single territory” and “I think they just need to get that into their heads”.

Mr Macron used his closing press conference to call for the terms of the Brexit deal to be respected.

America is back

At the G7 summit in Canada in 2018, Donald Trump left early and then withdrew his support for the joint communique.

A year later in France – the last time the leaders met face-to-face – there was not even an attempt to agree a communique because of concerns about Mr Trump’s approach to foreign affairs.

US President Joe Biden makes his way for a group photo before a reception at the Eden Project.
US President Joe Biden makes his way for a group photo before a reception at the Eden Project.

But arriving at RAF Mildenhall ahead of the summit, Joe Biden – on his first overseas visit – declared “the United States is back and democracies of the world are standing together to tackle the toughest challenges and the issues that matter most to our future”.

That meant action to tackle climate change and a bloc of democratic countries ready to act as a counterweight to authoritarian states like China and Russia.

China

Although Mr Biden’s approach to diplomacy is distinctly different to his predecessor, Washington’s concerns about China continued under the new president, even if the tone of the new administration is less bombastic.

The White House said G7 leaders agreed to launch a Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative to fund infrastructure – including green technologies – and support growth in developing countries.

The plan is seen as a rival to Beijing’s Belt and Road programme, which has extended Chinese influence around the world.

The summit communique said the G7 “will promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms”, particularly in Xinjiang province.

It also raised the situation in Hong Kong, calling on Beijing to respect the “rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy” enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.

The environment

Extinction Rebellion protesters, wearing masks of G7 leaders, in the sea of the beach at St Ives, during the G7.
Extinction Rebellion protesters, wearing masks of G7 leaders, in the sea of the beach at St Ives, during the G7.

The G7 is committed to supporting a green revolution that creates jobs, cuts emissions and seeks to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees

Leaders set out the action they will take to slash carbon emissions, including measures like ending the use of unabated coal power – no deadline was set for that move although the leaders did commit to end funding for overseas projects by the end of the year.

The G7 also set a goal of conserving or protecting at least 30% of their land and marine areas by 2030 as part of a push to reach that level of protection globally.