How G7 leaders can mobilize for vaccines, climate
- As G7 leaders come together, the costs of not taking action on public health, the climate, and biodiversity loss are now far greater than the costs of taking action.
- The business community is ready to support this agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide an ideal framework for doing so.
- This week’s G7 summit offers an opportunity for reinvigorated leadership and high ambitions.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, world leaders were united in their calls for a global response to mankind’s greatest crisis in living memory. But that ideal quickly vanished, with international cooperation giving way to multilateral sclerosis and national interest.
Fortunately, this week’s G7 summit provides an opportunity for reinvigorated leadership and Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears determined to raise ambitions. This does not happen too soon, as the costs of not taking action on public health, the climate and biodiversity loss are now becoming much higher than the costs of taking action.
The most urgent priority is to vaccinate the world, because no one is safe until everyone is safe. It is therefore alarming that the global immunization program, COVAX, has so far provided only around 80 million doses in developing countries against a target of 2 billion by the end of this year. Indeed, of the approximately 1.8 billion doses of COVID vaccines administered worldwide, 28% were administered in G7 countries, while only 0.3% were administered in low-income countries. And at the current rate of deployment, it will take more than 50 years to vaccinate everyone.
This is the classic outcome of the prisoner’s dilemma, where failure to cooperate is worse for every nation. Poorer citizens are suffering without vaccination and allowing COVID to circulate in developing countries could lead to new variants spreading around the world. The risk is that we reverse hard-won progress, where health systems and economies get stuck again.
It is clear that we will not cross the finish line of global immunization without proper funding, which is why the world’s richest countries must step up and pay at least two-thirds of the estimated $ 66 billion needed. That’s a paltry sum compared to the huge sums COVID is already costing developed economies, with the U.S. government alone facing a bill of at least $ 16 trillion. Reports that the G7 will deliver an additional 1 billion doses of vaccine to the poorest countries over the next year would literally be a boost to those who need it most.
Climate change is an urgent threat requiring decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising sea levels. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.
To limit the rise in global temperature to well below 2 ° C and as close as possible to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policymakers and civil society implement short- and long-term global climate actions in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The World Economic Forum’s Climate Initiative supports the scaling up and acceleration of global climate action through the collaboration of the public and private sectors. The Initiative works on several lines of work to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.
This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from diverse sectors developing cost-effective solutions for the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with decision-makers and partner companies to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of a more secure climate.
Contact us to get involved.
Engaging in bold climate action will also be a key test for the G7. Many developing countries are already publicly skeptical of the COP26 in Glasgow, which is extremely unnecessary background music, as the stakes could not be higher. Again, no one is safe until everyone is safe, because climate change does not differentiate between rich and poor. We also know that effective climate diplomacy depends on having the world’s biggest carbon emitters act first, which is why now is the time for them to lead by example.
The suspicion of emerging economies is well founded, as the pledge by the richest countries to provide them with $ 100 billion in climate finance per year is far from on track. The OECD estimates that only around $ 62 billion in public funding was raised in 2018, while Oxfam calculates that the number could be even lower. Canada and Italy have been particularly parsimonious, but it is clear that collectively the G7 – which is responsible for around 80% of climate finance – can be much more courageous in building solidarity for a successful COP26. The benefits would far outweigh the costs, as we desperately need developing countries to embark on a journey of green – rather than brown growth.
Nor can the G7 continue to ignore the root cause of the crisis: the rampant loss of biodiversity, which has dramatically increased our vulnerability to pandemics and climate disasters.
With humans and wildlife now living closer and closer, 70% of new infectious diseases come from animals. Again, we need to put the numbers in perspective. Globally, COVID has cost $ 28 trillion in lost production, while the annual cost of preventing further pandemics over the next decade is estimated at just $ 26 billion. It is therefore imperative that governments move quickly to take much bolder action to protect our natural capital.
Likewise, G7 leaders cannot ignore the undeniable link between our manic demolition of the environment and our looming climate emergency. Our forests, peatlands, oceans, mangroves and freshwater systems are all vital carbon sinks. Yet their routine destruction continues unabated, even though climate change could cost the global economy $ 7.9 trillion by 2050. It is the voodoo economy at large that demands an urgent political response.
I do not envy for a single minute the daunting challenges facing the G7 leaders when they meet at the Carbis Bay Hotel this week. But they must keep several considerations in mind.
The general public wants us to rebuild better after the pandemic. The business community is ready to support this program of change and renewal with resources, technology and know-how. And, most importantly, we already have a ready-made plan to facilitate our recovery: the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
When Mr Johnson signs the Summit communiqué, I hope he will remember the words of his hero, Winston Churchill, who said “I never care about action… only inaction ”. Global Britain and the world will watch.