Leaders from of the seven wealthiest democracies – the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom – Friday started three days of talks at the tiny village of Carbis Bay, near St. Ives in Cornwall, England, in pursuit of a greener, more prosperous and equitable future under the “build back better” motto.
The pandemic caused leaders to skip last year’s summit. The last time the G-7 met in person was in Biarritz, France, in 2019.
Topping the agenda was a new plan to quash future pandemics within the first 100 days, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the covid-19 crisis, it was reported. The so-called ‘Carbis Bay Declaration‘ will see the UK create a new animal vaccine centre aimed at preventing future diseases crossing from creatures to humans and include the recommendations of expert findings, which highlight that the first 100 days after the identification of an epidemic threat are crucial to preventing it from becoming a pandemic.
This year's venue is a popular holiday destination in the southwestern tip of England known for its long, picturesque coastline, its mild climate — and a savoury pastry called the Cornish Pasty. Locals may be used to crowds and traffic jams during the peak summer tourist season, but the disruptions caused by the summit are on another level. A naval frigate dominates the coastline, armed soldiers guard the main sites and some 5,000 extra police officers have been deployed to the area. Authorities have even hired a cruise ship with a capacity of 3,000, moored offshore, to accommodate some of the extra officers.
Queen Elizabeth II hosted US President Joseph Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to Cornwall, together with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other members of the royal family. The 95-year-old monarch joked with the presidents and prime ministers during a “family photo” following an evening reception at the Eden Project Thursday night.
Also attending the event as guests were Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, President of the European Council as well as leaders from Australia, South Africa and South Korea. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modijoined via video link.
“This is a meeting that genuinely needs to happen,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson, this year’s host, as he opened the plenary session of leaders. “We need to make sure that we learn the lessons from the pandemic, we need to make sure that we don't repeat some of the errors that we doubtless made in the course of the last 18 months or so.” Johnson said he wanted the G-7 to be “building back better, building back greener, building back fairer, and building back more equal and in a more gender-neutral and perhaps more feminine way.”
Johnson added that “the world will look to the G-7 to apply our shared values and diplomatic might, to the challenge of defeating the pandemic and leading a global recovery.”
The G-7 will announce a plan to donate a billion covid-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, including 100 million doses from Britain, right after Biden said earlier Thursday that his administration was donating 500 million doses of the Pfizer drug.
G-7 countries are also expected to commit to reducing CO2 emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, a change from the previously agreed 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise. The group also agreed to no longer fund coal plants after the end of 2021, an important concession by Japan, which relies on them.
The G-7 is also expected to issue a document Sunday which would serve as a foundation ahead of Glasgow COP26, the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference in November, that Britain also will host.
There are high hopes the G-7 leaders will endorse Biden's proposal for a minimum global tax rate of 15% that companies would have to pay regardless of where they are based. The deal had been expected after G-7 finance officials backed the idea last week to stop large multinational companies from seeking out tax havens and force them to pay more of their income to governments.
Although the G-7 has plenty of disagreements on trade, including long-running disputes over Airbus and Boeing subsidies, as well as steel and aluminium tariffs that then-President Trump imposed in 2018, this year's summit is expected to focus on areas of common ground, including coming up with a commitment to uphold and strengthen the “rules-based multilateral trading system” and “international trade rules.”
In a June 5 opinion column in The Washington Post, Biden wrote that the G-7 will also be announcing a “high-standard alternative to China for upgrading physical, digital and health infrastructure that is more resilient and supports global development.”
At the end of the first day, leaders and their partners attended a reception with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton. The reception was held at the Eden Project — a botanical garden shaped like bio-domes that create a rainforest environment.