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Blog Post 11 June 2021

Climate action and green recovery: what to expect from the G7 summit

From 11-13 June, Carbis Bay in Cornwall will be welcoming more than just the usual bucket and spade brigade, as the seaside town is set to host the 47th G7 summit. Leaders from the world’s seven largest economies will meet to discuss the biggest issues of the day, including Covid-19 recovery, trade and climate change.

What is the G7?

The seven permanent members of the G7 – or Group of 7 – (UK, US, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy), as well as the European Union (EU), see themselves as sharing the values of being open, democratic and outward-looking societies.

They gather each year to discuss global trends, issues and priorities and invite a handful of other nations. As host nation this year, the UK has invited Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa as guest countries.

What will the group be prioritising this time around?

A key priority for this meeting is ‘tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity’. This has risen up the agenda in recent years but has often slipped back down in periods of economic crisis. It’s therefore encouraging to see action on climate change and biodiversity loss retain a prominent position amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Another priority is ‘leading the global recovery from coronavirus while strengthening our resilience against future pandemics’. While this priority focuses on medical and scientific collaboration, there is also an element of wanting to pursue a green recovery, with this year’s official G7 website firmly framed in the language of ‘build back better’.

UK as a climate leader

The UK has, in the lead up to the meeting, secured a series of commitments from the G7 Environment and Climate Ministers, including a key 30×30 initiative to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the UK is looking to position itself as a leader on climate change and biodiversity loss, given that the country is preparing to host the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November 2021. Both the G7 meeting and COP26 conference have been referred to as some of the most critical climate events ever, with time slipping away to avert the worst impacts of runaway climate change.

With the eyes of the world on the UK in 2021, it is critical that we lead. One area where the UK is leading is in its support for the Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative – a voluntary collaboration of governments working to promote the manufacture, purchase and use of energy efficient appliances, lighting and equipment around the world.

The G7 leaders are set to further endorse SEAD’s goal of doubling the efficiency of four key energy-using products sold globally by 2030: lighting, cooling, refrigeration, and motor systems.

These commitments signal the UK and G7’s global leadership on energy efficiency, recognising its key contribution as ‘the first fuel’ to emissions reduction, energy security, economic growth, sustainable development, alleviating energy poverty, and job creation.

Great progress so far and ambitious targets set

All of the G7 countries have been making progress towards their climate targets. The UK power system has already rapidly decarbonised, to the extent that we recently saw wind power account for two-thirds of the UK’s electricity needs. More funding is being allocated for the decarbonisation of transport and industrial processes. In the US, the new Biden administration has ramped up its commitments and started to take action with a growing consensus across the political divide that more action is needed.

In the EU, large portions of the Covid-19 recovery funding are being directed to decarbonisation initiatives (both at EU and individual member state level) with a newly-agreed €17.5 billion Just Transition Fund aiming to help coal-dependent regions transition to low carbon economies.

Ramping up the pace and scale

We are now moving in the right direction when it comes to tackling the climate emergency, however obstacles remain. While the UK is seen as a climate leader having picked some of the low-hanging fruit, we now need to make a much bigger impact in the more challenging-to-decarbonise sectors.

The pace and scale of the transition ahead will need to ramp up, and soon. In the UK, arguably the most important of these is decarbonising buildings and heating systems. We now need ambitious and effective programmes with sufficient funding and long-term commitment to help deliver this.

The Biden administration has set out a very ambitious programme. However, significant structural issues in the US and pushback on climate action from some quarters will make reaching the ambitious targets set by the new administration challenging. In both the UK and US, there has been a dramatic improvement in rhetoric; this must now be met with action equal to the challenge.

The EU has also set ambitious goals after a slow and fraught negotiation process, but critics have pointed out that relatively little of the total Covid-19 recovery spending has been earmarked for a green recovery. Others have raised questions about how ‘green’ some of the green investments are.

This increase in pace and scale among G7 nations will need to be echoed at a global level. Where the UK has led, the G7 must now encourage others in Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa to follow. Ultimately, it’s delivery against these ambitions that will really count. For every attendee (including the hosts), the positive rhetoric and ambitious targets need to be met rapidly with equal levels of action across every sector at both the G7 summit in June and then later this year at COP26.

The eyes of the world are on the UK, waiting to see the ambition turned into action.

Last updated: 8 June 2021