Next weekend, the G7 will meet at Schloss Elmau – a deja vu from 2015 when they met there before under German leadership. However, the world has changed significantly over the past seven years. Climate change is no longer a future threat but a real one, including in Germany where floods caused 180 deaths and billions in damage last year. The world has faced a global pandemic that is not yet behind us, with interest rates and inflation rising in many G7 countries and elsewhere. Last but not least, Russia invaded Ukraine. Even if in 2015 the G8 had already transformed into the G7, excluding Russia, such an aggression was not what many imagined.
Arguably, this could be the moment in history when the G7 sheds its old heritage and dispels doubts about its worth compared to the G20 which is seen more as the real center of power. While the war in Ukraine threatens to cripple the G20, the G7 may have grown in importance compared to 2015. Moreover, Germany now has a new leader, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and none of the G7 leaders faces a short-term election. At least for now, the West seems more united than just a few years ago.
But ultimately, the results of the summit will determine whether Schloss Elmau Mark 2 is not just a bad remake of 2015 but a true moment of leadership showing the way in a world in crisis.
Here are three acts of leadership the G7 could take that could make a real difference. The power is in their hands, no one else.
The fallout from COVID on global hunger has been drastic, pushing the number of severely food insecure people from 135 million to 276 million. And now, the invasion of Ukraine and its global ramifications are causing food and fertilizer prices to skyrocket, which is expected to push that number of hungry people to 323 million in 2022 alone. 200 million people could fall into extreme poverty. Rightly, the G7 has repeatedly discussed the food situation in the world and made important commitments to keep food markets open. Yet the scale of current restrictions has now dwarfed that seen during the 2007/08 food price crisis, which contributed 40% to the rise in agricultural prices. Germany’s former leaders guided important talks in 2015, with the G7 pledging to help 500 million people fight hunger, though delivering on that pledge was deemed insufficient. This time, such an empty promise will not suffice.
There is a saying in German that goes: if you don’t know what to do, set up a commission. The German presidency is behind the creation of a new global alliance for food security. The world doesn’t need another commission to mask inaction, but real added value in organizing the response, both short and long term. It should complement existing initiatives and institutions such as FARM, an initiative launched earlier by France and others, the World Food Program or the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Critically, so far no funding has been pledged under the G7 process to help those already at risk of starvation or food insecurity. Emergency needs are estimated at over $20 billion, while we also need to invest in short and long-term support, especially for small producers and smallholder farmers. Investments in initiatives such as IFAD’s crisis response could give communities continued access to key inputs like seeds and fertilisers, allowing farmers to continue growing food and supporting production infrastructure, as well as to provide essential market information. The G7 is the largest donor club. If they don’t intervene, no one will and they will have lost all high moral standing.
The German chancellor put a lot of energy behind the so-called “climate club”, which he wanted to create to push the climate forward with a group of forward-thinking countries, from the G7 and others. But the real risk today is that the club remains in tune with the times and that the G7 does not even manage to progress on its own. Several actions could restore the credibility of the G7 on climate and set the stage for more success later in the year, at the G20 and at the COP in Egypt.
First, we need to show decisive action on mitigation: while the G7 wants to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, there are no plans to get there. So does the need to produce a timeline on how they will end the use of fossil fuels in their entirety. This is where the G7 should show it’s ready to take tough decisions like ending coal use by 2030 and come up with plans to do so, not just a communiqué.
Second, the G7 should urgently define support for those most affected by climate change and yet least responsible for it: rich countries pledged in 2009 that they would mobilize $100 billion a year from of 2020 to help those on the front lines of climate change. change. They have had time to prepare for it and yet, by 2022, they are still 10 to 15 billion dollars short. This is when these big emitters spend more on fossil fuel subsidies than on international climate finance – the United States for example 60 times more ($11 billion). for international climate finance versus $660 billion for fossil fuel subsidies). .If there was real political will, the G7 could easily close this gap and finally keep its promise. As the G7 recognize the need to address loss and damage, they should follow their lead as Scotland did last year and pledge funding for this purpose.
Official Development Assistance
In 2015, the German Presidency negotiated the first-ever mention of the historic 0.7% ODA/GNI target in the main statement. This may sound wobbly, but it was real progress because the United States, for example, had never committed to this goal and many donor countries were dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis and were considering reducing their ODA to the poorest countries to finance expenses related to refugees on their soil. . As commendable as the statement’s line was, it did not help, and many donors reduced their actual aid that year. This time must be different and the G7 much more explicit: as major donors, they must commit to ensuring that they want to use the invasion of Ukraine and the resulting refugee crisis as excuse to cut funding for the poorest countries. The EU has laid the groundwork, allowing its member states to use cohesion funds rather than the ODA budget line to help refugees on their soil. The UK has already announced cuts, however. But all the more reason for Germany and its EU allies to make it a priority.
The G7 could certainly do even more – but it would be a good course of action to start with. These gestures would send a message and perhaps help restore the trust that has been broken and lay the groundwork for multilateral action later this year.