G7 Summit: COVID, climate & crisis management

Sustainable recovery, management of ongoing crises, and mitigation of future threats, are all on the table at this year’s G7 Summit. The formal sessions will focus on Economic Recovery, Global Resilience, Foreign Policy, Health, Open Societies, and Climate and Nature. Each of these areas of work presents real challenges at the local, national, and cooperative international levels.

G7 leaders are meeting in Cornwall to set the world on course for a sustainable future—addressing COVID, climate, finance, rights, and recovery. Photo of Penzance, Cornwall, by Benjamin Elliott.

To get beyond the COVID emergency

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed our understanding of resilience failure. While this public health crisis feels like a low-probability, high-impact anomaly; it was, in fact, a foreseeable shock event, and all indications are, there will be more like it. Biodiversity collapse, climate disruption, and threats to food security, are all potential engines of future shocks. Meanwhile, novel disease spillovers like SARS-CoV-2 are becoming more frequent.

The pandemic created a deep and entangling economic crisis. Income inequality has expanded at historic speed, while acute hunger has doubled, and recovery efforts keep stalling due to 3rd and 4th waves of new infections. Vaccines hold great promise, but most of the world has not yet had access to vaccinations, and several more dangerous variants are still spreading.

Managing this crisis effectively means making all effort possible to ensure vaccines can be equitably distributed around the world. Any major outbreak is not only a tragedy involving mass death and prolonged hardship for millions or tens of millions of people; it is also an opportunity for the virus to mutate and become more transmissible and more dangerous.

We have not talked enough about eradication of COVID-19; the G7 Summit in Cornwall is a chance to start that conversation. Step 1 is making real COVID safety a possibility for everyone. Building back better must mean building forward together.


Toward a World that Works

A world that works must work for everyone. To achieve this, the leaders of the G7 should lead by example by recognizing that (1) we are all future-builders, (2) health is a fabric of wellbeing and value, (3) resilience is a baseline imperative, and by acting to ensure we (4) leave no one behind, (5) design to transcend crisis, and (6) maximize integrative value creation.

So, we welcome the G7’s inclusion of gender equality as an element of overall economic recovery. We also welcome the emphasis on global resilience, pandemic preparedness, and climate and Nature. Building operational resilience, as a foundation for sustainable shared prosperity, means not only investing in new solutions; it means investing in the protection and empowerment of everyone, and of the natural systems that sustain life.


Climate-Smart Finance Now

Since the nations of the world agreed in 1992 to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, air pollution has contributed to more than 200 million deaths, and climate-related natural disaster costs have soared. We now know beyond any doubt that carbon pollution is destabilizing the climate system and putting global food security and nations states at risk.

For a long time, polluting interests argued “the market should decide”—as if we didn’t know how destructive carbon pollution is. What they did not do was innovate or diversify in ways that would make their operations align with the need to protect human health, climate stability, and Nature.

Investors, voters, courts, regulators, and the International Energy Agency, are all now calling for an end to dirty, destructive energy systems. There is no sound argument for national investment and development strategies continuing to favor activities that destroy value across the world.

This is why we see the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero and the Net-Zero Banking Alliance committing tens of trillions of dollars to achieving carbon neutrality. It is why an Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders is calling on the G7 to:

  • lead a push for global commitment to halve emissions by 2030,

  • compel businesses to decarbonize,

  • institute steadily rising carbon prices,

  • shift to climate-smart finance, and

  • restore degraded agricultural lands.

Given the accelerated action required to keep global heating below the danger threshold of 1.5ºC, the G7 should consolidate early action timelines to reduce emissions by at least 60% before 2030. From a science-based resilience standpoint, 50% emissions reduction by 2030 is imperative, but 60 is safer.

We welcome the G7 Finance Ministers’ commitment to green the global financial system, and to:

deliver the significant structural change needed to meet our net zero commitments and environment objectives in a way that is positive for jobs, growth, competitiveness and fairness [while properly embedding] climate change and biodiversity loss considerations into economic and financial decision-making, including addressing the macroeconomic impacts and the optimal use of the range of policy levers to price carbon.


Enhance cooperation to defend humanity

The converging threats of COVID, climate, biodiversity collapse, and related threats to food and water security, constitute a mounting resilience deficit. The prospect for serious disruption of entire societies may become a routine part of life in this century, if the right choices aren’t made quickly, and in a spirit of open and mutual cooperation.

We welcome the G7 commitment safeguarding and fostering open societies, structured around the primacy of the rights and dignity of all people. Achieving sustainable thriving for humankind will require and expansion of the space for such open and humane societies, and that expansion will require detailed, meaningful, and ongoing cooperation, not only between nations, but between levels of institutional authority within nations.

As we work to transcend the COVID emergency, it will be vital to foster empowerment of all people with real education and opportunity, equality before the law, everyday health and safety, and meaningful dignified livelihoods that build value for communities, whole societies, and for the protection of Nature. Easing the resilience deficit may require major new infusions of rescue funding, as an investment in the future prospects of humankind and for the protection of our planetary home.

The G7 can set the table for global success in sustainable recovery, by:

  1. Setting eradication of COVID-19 as the long-term goal;

  2. Mobilizing vaccinations equitably for all nations;

  3. Aiming for at least 60% GHG emissions reductions by 2030, powered by strong carbon prices;

  4. Committing to material investment in Nature, including the health of land-based and marine ecosystems, and regenerative food systems;

  5. Enhancing cooperation to expand the space for human thriving and ingenuity;

  6. Reconfiguring trade, banking, and central banking relationships to prioritize multi-system resilience.