Nearly 18 months into the pandemic, many countries are making progress to keep Covid-19 at bay. However, the crisis is still ongoing in many parts of the world, with the virus surging in South America, parts of Asia, and a third wave beginning in Africa. The pandemic, like climate change, is a shared crisis. Progress on both fronts demands collective action, partnership, and the sharing of resources.
Next week’s meeting of the G-7 in Cornwall, U.K., is expected to focus on the challenges of Covid-19, economic recovery, and mitigating climate change. The meeting is a critical test of the world’s leading democracies to go beyond words to deliver concrete action that supports a healthy, sustainable, and just recovery worldwide. However, access to economic safety nets, vaccines, and health care has not been equitably shared so far. This imbalanced approach is not just amoral; it is also counterproductive and threatens hard-won progress everywhere. The G-7 gathering is a powerful opportunity to reverse this trend and signal that equity takes precedence by developing a roadmap to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to all and prioritizing emission reductions in ongoing economic stimulus efforts.
Leadership opportunities for the world’s largest polluters
The countries that are part of the G-7 have historically been the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. They bear considerable burden in setting the tone on how they are working to end the climate crisis through their own domestic actions and by providing the financial support for the hardest-hit nations recovering from Covid-19 and those that will be hit hard by the climate crisis.
According to Climate Watch, 48 parties representing 59 countries and 54% of global emissions have committed or communicated a net-zero emissions target by 2050. However, only 10% of these parties have passed legislation around their commitments. The rest include language around action to be taken in policy documents or in political pledges.
Indeed, very few of the countries represented at Cornwall have taken near-term domestic action that signals they are on a pathway to achieve those net-zero commitments by 2050. The U.K. and France are the exceptions.
Progress toward 2050 commitments cannot happen overnight. A closer look at how these attending countries (G7 plus Australia, India, South Africa, and South Korea) are performing relative to near-term 2030 targets shows woeful improvement. According to Climate Action Tracker assessments, U.S. climate action thus far is deemed critically insufficient, Germany and South Africa are highly insufficient, and Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and the U.K. are all insufficient. Notably, this tracker rates India’s action as compatible with limiting global warming to 2° C, based on equity, historical emissions, and other considerations. While these assessments are from 2020, and do not include commitments as a result of the Biden Summit in April this year, it is clear that until regulations and legislation are in play, we can only count these as unfulfilled commitments for now.
To ensure the integrity of net-zero emissions targets, the near-term domestic climate commitments by the G-7 members need scrutiny and transparency, which can help with their leadership on the global stage. Establishing a timeline to achieve even a few priorities will help reach a pathway to halving our greenhouse emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero by 2050. The three key priorities are:
- Ensuring that climate action being implemented in the near term is inclusive, credible and driving toward net-zero,
- Ending financial support for fossil fuels, and redirecting support to a sustainable economic recovery from the pandemic, and
- Encouraging urgent, overdue contributions to the $100 billion in climate finance that rich countries promised to support climate action in developing countries.
Philanthropy, too, has an essential responsibility to work in partnership with civil society and non-state actors to stimulate significant national-level actions and support governments in delivering on their commitments. It is well-positioned to support climate solutions centered around equity and justice. With more new donors coming into the climate philanthropy space and established climate funders maintaining or increasing their commitments, there is a growing opportunity to collaborate and catalyze change to make as much progress on climate as possible during this decisive decade for action.
With the U.K. being the host for the G-7 and COP26 in November, all eyes are on how it will combine diplomacy with action. If G-7 governments can deliver on near-term Covid-19 and climate priorities, the world will be on a much healthier footing as pressure builds on all nations to commit to bolder, accelerated steps to limit mean global temperature rise to 1.5° C.